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Grant Pierce, CEO of Sonics is Back to the Cloud

SoCs are taking to the Cloud.  Just as microprocessors drove the PC boom 20 years ago and the internet drove the communications boom 10 years ago, SoCs are revolutionizing consumer electronics today.  Each boom brought us new applications, rapid decline in product cost, and many more users.  While microprocessors drove computer volumes in the millions, complex SoCs are driving consumer products in the billions.

What is driving SoC complexity?  This was the focus of Grant Pierce’s talk at the Semico Impact Conference on May 16th, 2012.  As we all know, today’s consumers are looking for higher quality at lower prices.   They want video, voice, data, and audio in everything.  All this convergence pushes the need for multi-GHz performance.

Apps run on everything and apps need “Giga’s” whether it be a 1-3 GHz multi-core CPU, 100+ GFLOPS multi-core GPU, or a 15-50 GB/sec DRAM chip.  And as we use more apps, we will continue to need even more “Giga’s” in the future.  But all these “Giga’s” burn more and more power which is why our devices die so quickly.  These SoCs have gotten so powerful, that today’s batteries can’t afford to power them all at once.

And now we’ve come to what is driving SoC complexity.  By using subsystems, we can power only those sections of the SoC that are in use while the other subsystems remain dark.  This is cloud-scale power management.  It allows designers to keep SoCs dark more of the time with hardware-controlled shutdown and automatic wakeup.  Ultimately, cloud-scale power management saves 50% of a SoC’s power usage.

SoC complexity leads to improved battery life of mobile devices that use more and more “Giga’s.”

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