Monthly Archives: April 2017


Top MCU IC Suppliers 2015-2016

Strong growth in MCUs for IoT applications and suppliers jockeying for marketshare in this IC segment have resulted in several major acquisitions that changed the pecking order of MCU leaders in 2016, according to data released in IC Insights’ April Update to The McClean Report, which was released earlier this month. Figure 1 ranks the largest MCU suppliers in 2016 by dollar-sales volume.  Among the top MCU suppliers shown, NXP, Microchip, and Cypress Semiconductor moved up in the sales ranking during 2016 with strong increases in revenues, which were driven by acquisitions of IC companies that sold microcontrollers. Meanwhile, those suppliers not making significant acquisitions in microcontrollers posted low-single digit percentage increases or declines in MCU sales in 2016.


Although overall growth in microcontrollers has wobbled and stalled in the past couple years, MCUs remain at the epicenter of tremendous growth in the Internet of Things, automotive, robotics, embedded applications and other emerging systems.   Major MCU suppliers have been improving their portfolios to address many of these key markets.  Part of that improvement process has included merging and acquiring competitors in order to gain a quick foothold into these developing markets.


In 2016, NXP in the Netherlands overtook Renesas Electronics in Japan as the world’s largest microcontroller supplier with MCU revenues climbing 116% following its $11.6 billion purchase of U.S.-based Freescale Semiconductor in December 2015.  Prior to its acquisition, Freescale was ranked second in MCUs and was catching up with Renesas in microcontroller sales with only $210 million separating the two companies in 2015 versus about a $1 billion gap in 2014.  Renesas suffered a 19% drop in MCU dollar sales in 2015 (largely due to the weak yen exchange rate in that year but also because of the continued fallout from Japan’s troubled economy).  In 2016, Renesas’ fall in MCU sales eased, dropping 4% to nearly $2.5 billion, or about 16% of the total microcontroller market.  In 2011, Renesas’ MCU marketshare was 33% of worldwide microcontroller sales.

The Freescale acquisition moved NXP from sixth in the 2015 MCU ranking to the top spot in 2016 with a marketshare of 19% ($2.9 billion).  About three-quarters of NXP’s 2015 microcontroller sales were 8-bit and 16-bit MCUs used in smartcards.  After Freescale’s business was merged into NXP, smartcard MCUs accounted for a little over one-quarter of the company’s total microcontroller sales in 2016. MCUs developed and introduced by Freescale are aimed at a wide range of embedded control applications, including significant amounts in automotive systems.  NXP and Freescale both have developed extensive 32-bit MCUs with Cortex-M CPU design cores licensed from ARM in the U.K.

U.S.-based Microchip Technology climbed from fifth in the 2015 MCU ranking to third in 2016 with sales increasing 50% to $2.0 billion following its $3.4 billion acquisition of Atmel in 2Q16.  U.S.-based Atmel was ranked ninth in MCU sales in 2015 ($808 million).  Prior to buying Atmel, Microchip had been the only major MCU supplier not licensing ARM CPU technology.  For about 10-years, Microchip has developed and sold 32-bit MCUs, based on a RISC-processor architecture developed by MIPS Technologies (which is now owned by Imagination Technology in the U.K.,  a rival of ARM).  Six months after completing the Atmel acquisition, Microchip said it would expand both its MIPS-based PIC32 MCU product line and Atmel’s ARM-based SAM series.  Microchip has promised to “remain core agnostic, fitting the best solution with the right customer and for the right application.”

Meanwhile, Cypress in Silicon Valley moved into eighth place in the MCU ranking with sales increasing 15% in 2016 to about $622 million.  Cypress boosted its presence in MCUs when it acquired Spansion for about $5.0 billion in stock in March 2015.  Originally spun out of Advanced Micro Devices as a NOR flash memory supplier, Spansion had purchased Fujitsu Semiconductor’s Microcontroller and Analog Business in 2013 for $110 million as part of its efforts to expand beyond nonvolatile storage ICs. Spansion also licensed ARM’s 32-bit CPU cores for microcontrollers in 2013.  Cypress’ increase in microcontroller sales was partly a result of having a full year of revenue from Spansion’s MCU business but also growth in the company’s programmable system-on-chip (PSoC) products, which combine microcontroller functionality with user-configurable peripherals of mixed-signal and digital functions that are targeted at end-use applications.

The biggest decline in the MCU leader list was posted by Samsung, which saw its sales drop 14% in 2016, primarily because of weakness in the smartcard microcontroller market.  Samsung sells MCUs to OEMs but also serves in-house needs for its own brands of consumer electronics, computers, and communications systems (i.e., smartphones).


More Information Contact

For more information regarding this Research Bulletin, please contact Rob Lineback, Senior Market Research Analyst at IC Insights. Phone: +1-817-731-0424, email:



IP-Maker to release new NVMe host IP

: IP-Maker is extending its storage IP portfolio with the release of its NVMe host controller for embedded applications. The team has implemented the features of the host NVMe driver as a full hardware IP, providing low latency, low gate count and low power consumption. It can be integrated in a FPGA, and manages the NVMe protocol without any CPU. The IP is available now and has been tested on a Xilinx FPGA.


“We are excited to announce the release of this new IP for embedded applications. We used our strong experience in IP design for server products, leading in a very optimized technology for embedded products, because they also require high throughput and low latency storage performance, but with very limited resources in term of space, power consumption and BOM cost.” said Mickael Guyard, Marketing Director at IP-Maker. “It is an ideal solution for high performance storage in embedded applications such as high resolution camera, testbench and military recorder, portable medical imaging, IoT gateway, and mobile vision products such as drone and robotics.”


The NVMe host IP can be used in a FPGA, connected between the PCIe root port and the cache memory, internal SRAM or external DRAM. It fully controls the NVMe protocol, by setting and managing the NVMe commands. No CPU is required, leading in a drastic bill-of-material and power consumption reduction. Any NVMe commercial SSD can be used on the device side. It comes with high performance features by supporting PCIe Gen3 x8 interface, and a sub-microsecond latency.


About IP-Maker

IP-Maker is a leader in Intellectual Properties (IP) for high performance storage applications. IP-Maker’s NVM Express (NVMe) technology provides a unique hardware accelerated solution that leverages the PCIe SSD performances, including ultra-low latency and high throughput. IP-Maker is a contributor to the NVMe specification. The ASIC and FPGA IP portfolio includes NVMe device, NVMe host, Universal NandFlash Controller and ECC IP cores. The combination of the IP-Maker technology and its associate services dramatically cuts time-to-market.


Contact information

Les Néréides / 55 rue Pythagore / 13290 Aix en Provence / France / / +33 972 366 513


Jérôme Gaysse

+33 662 145 128


White Paper: Enabling Server-Class Storage in Embedded Applications


More performance with limited resources: local data storage in embedded applications can be a real design challenge. That comes from the huge amount of fast data coming from various types of sensors, such as high resolution camera, testbench recorder for industrial analytics, or data acquisition in a physics experiment. An embedded application has a limited budget in term of BOM cost, power consumption and space. In this article, a new way to implement high performance data storage is presented, allowing the use of server-class storage technology in an embedded environment.


Existing storage solutions

Data storage solutions for embedded applications can be built in the device, like serial flash memory or eMMC, or on a removable support, like SDCard, USB media or mSATA SSD. The table below provides an overview on the performance and capacity range.


Some embedded applications require higher performance. As an example, a high end video system based on 4k sensor at 60 frames per second requires 4096x2160x 3 x 60 = 2GB/s. This is the raw data rate (obviously, the throughput is lower for compressed data). It is easy to understand that standard storage media can’t be used for such performances. The bottleneck is on the media physical interface. A new media is needed: PCI Express (PCIe). This is a well-known physical interface used in server, computer and embedded applications. It is based on a high speed serial interface (up to 8Gbit/s in PCIe Gen3) combine in one or multiple lanes.

The PCIe interface has entered the storage market few years ago, through PCIe SSD products, in order to accelerate intensive applications such as big data analytics and data base. It has been followed by the introduction of the NVM Express (NVMe) specification, in order to optimize the protocol, and to leverage the market acceptance. NVMe SSDs were first available as a PCI card, then in a 2.5inch form factor. Recently, M.2 products, and even as BGA chip, have been introduced, making it easier to be integrated in a consumer application, such as ultrabooks and tablets. In term of performance, a PCIe Gen3 x4 based interface can provide near to 4GB/s in a M.2 form factor, 6 times higher than mSATA.


Another performance indicator is the IOPS number: IO per second, where an IO is typically 4kB. Coming back to the high end video system example, and assuming that the video data are stored in a 4kB block on the storage drive, that leads to about 500kIOPS. This is a very standard number for server application, but very high for an embedded application. In the server, on the host side, the NVMe protocol is managed by the CPU as a software driver. In order to reach 500kIOPS, 1.8 cores at 3.3GHz are required, running at 100% of utilization. In an embedded context, that leads to about 4 x 2GHz cores processing capabilities, only for the NVMe management for 500kIOPS. Such computing system is more from the server domain than from the embedded domain, leading in a high BOM cost (about $400), and a high power consumption (about 50W).


Here is the dilemma, NVMe SSD seems to be the only solution to support high performance storage, but it requires strong computing capabilities on the host side, which is at the opposite of the embedded requirements.


IP-Maker solved this issue with the introduction of the NVMe host IP.


IP-Maker has developed an optimized NVMe management for embedded applications, without using any CPU. The NVMe host driver has been implemented as a full hardware IP to be integrated in a FPGA or ASIC. This IP is integrated between the PCIe root port and the cache memory. The IP fully controls the data flow based on the NVMe protocol. Thanks to its optimized architecture, it can be easily used with a low cost FPGA, making it applicable to embedded applications.


In term of performance, it can be linked with up to a PCIe Gen3 x8 interface, delivering a sub-microsecond latency. Because it uses the NVM Express standard interface, it can be connected to any commercial NVMe SSD available on the market. Compared to a CPU-based system, it comes with 20x better power efficiency, and 20x lower cost.


Theory of operations


The IP can be used for both read and write operations. The following description focuses on a write system, such as a high end video recorder. The camera sensor is connected to the FPGA, the data transmitted from the sensor to the cache memory (external DDR). As soon as the buffer in the cache is ready, the NVMe host manager is configured with the necessary information regarding the data to store from the buffer to the NVMe SSD. That includes the buffer start address and the data size. Then the host manager sets the NVMe commands and manages the data transfer. As soon as the NVMe data transfer is done, the buffer becomes available for new data.


Implementation block diagram




Many embedded applications can benefit from this high performance storage technology. That provides the possibility to store more and faster data without adding any expensive BOM cost. Therefore that allows embedded system companies to design a new generation of applications with additional storage capabilities, providing more value to their customers.



Ready for the future of storage


With the increasing demand for high performance analytics application in cloud computing, many new technologies have been developed for the server market. IP-Maker succeeded in transferring the use of these technologies in the embedded world. The NVMe host IP from IP-Maker will leverage a new generation of embedded applications, with server-class high performance storage, and with embedded-class power requirement and BOM cost.


In a very near future, new non-volatile memories will emerge, such as MRAM, RRAM or 3DXP. That will dramatically reduce the SSD latency, by one or two orders of magnitude. The NVMe host IP, with its sub-microsecond latency, is ready for this new generation of storage technology.


About IP-Maker


IP-Maker is a leader in Intellectual Properties (IP) for high performance storage applications. IP-Maker’s NVM Express (NVMe) technology provides a unique hardware accelerated solution that leverages the PCIe SSD performances, including ultra-low latency and high throughput. IP-Maker is a contributor to the NVMe specification. The ASIC and FPGA IP portfolio includes NVMe, Universal NandFlash Controller and ECC IP cores. The combination of the IP-Maker technology and its associate services dramatically cuts time-to-market.


Contact information

IP-Maker vendor page on AnySilicon

Tel: +33 972 366 513



Inside Secure releases latest True Random Number Generator

Aix-en-Provence, April 25, 2017 – Inside Secure (Euronext: INSD), at the heart of security solutions for mobile and connected devices, today announces the release of its newest version of TRNG-IP-76, the company’s leading true random number generator (TRNG). TRNG-IP-76 is 50 times more efficient than what’s on the market today, and successfully addresses two of the critical challenges for SoC providers: security and power consumption. The company will be present this week at the 2017 IoT Dev Con in Santa Clara to talk about their newest TRNG and how developers can best secure their IoT devices.


Modern data encryption uses random cryptographic keys to encrypt and protect data, starting with efficient true random number generation. With Inside Secure’s new TRNG-IP-76, entropy generation rates are significantly improved to address markets that require large amounts of random data or where fast startup times are necessary. This IP is also suitable for HDCP (high-bandwidth digital control Protection) or other use cases with a key exchange protocol that has fixed requirements for startup and response times. Both the locking and sampling methods that enable the faster entropy harvesting are patented by Inside Secure. Additionally, the TRNG-IP-76 satisfies the latest NIST standards, FIPS 140-2, SP800-90A and SP800-90B+C draft with SHA-1 & SHA-256 conditioning functions or BCDF (block-cipher-based derivation function). TRNG-IP-76 is AIS-31 ready; it includes the required tests for AIS-31 in hardware.


“For IoT devices specifically, power efficiency is crucial,” said Kevin Beadle, president of Inside Secure’s Silicon IP and Secure Protocols business unit. “With our newest TRNG-IP- 76, the CPU is no longer unnecessarily powered, since entropy generation is now completed as a background task. This reduces overall power consumption and save battery life. In addition, the 50-times increased efficiency over current solutions gives our customers the ability to enable continuous numerical randomness, raising unpredictability and greatly increasing the security profile and protection of sensitive information.”


For more information on TRNG-IP-76:

For more information on the 2017 IoT Dev Con:


About Inside Secure

Inside Secure (Euronext Paris – INSD) is at the heart of security solutions for mobile and connected devices, providing software, silicon IP, tools and know-how needed to protect customers’ transactions, content, applications, and communications. With its deep security expertise and experience, the company delivers products having advanced and differentiated technical capabilities that span the entire range of security requirement levels to serve the demanding markets of network security, IoT security, content & application protection, mobile payment & banking. Inside Secure’s technology protects solutions for a broad range of customers including service providers, content distributors, security system integrators, device makers and semiconductor manufacturers. For more information, visit

Miniature workers repairing computer motherboard

asicNorth enhances IoT Design EcoSystem with IoT Endpoint ASIC Platform

Williston, VT April 24, 2017:  Building on the momentum of their IoT Design EcoSystem, asicNorth announced today the debut of an IoT Endpoint ASIC Platform to further accelerate the deployment of custom IoT endpoint devices for their customers.  The IoT Endpoint ASIC Platform is structured to be highly configurable enabling support for various radio protocols, ARM Cortex®-M0 compatible peripherals, analog/mixed-signal requirements, and external sensors.  The IoT Endpoint ASIC Platform will enable their customers the benefits of reduced development costs and faster time-to-market than traditional ASIC developments.


Initially targeting Low Energy Bluetooth and Smart City LPWAN applications, the IoT Endpoint ASIC Platform supports multiple radio standards through innovative system-in-package design.  The integrated high precision analog / mixed-signal cores provide control and measurement for many sensor applications including I-to-V, C-to-V, L-to-V, and small signal sensing.  By starting with proven silicon, asicNorth’s customers will be able to prototype their system and develop firmware immediately while ASIC customization proceeds in parallel, which will greatly accelerate their customer’s time-to-market.


The IoT Device Platform ASIC features IP and services from IoT Design EcoSystem partners – SOC Solutions, Silicon Creations, Faraday Technologies, UMC, and asicNorth. The IoT Device ASIC Platform will feature the following capabilities:


  • asicNorth’s high resolution 12-bit DAC and ADC analog/mixed-signal cores
  • SoC Solutions’ proven ARM Cortex®-M0 series subsystem design optimized for low power
  • Silicon Creations’ fast start, ultra-low power IoT PLL block
  • Faraday Technologies’ 1.8V crystal oscillator I/O cell
  • UMC’s world class advanced semiconductor technology



“asicNorth is excited to accelerate IoT endpoint device developments with this new platform,” comments Mike Slattery, asicNorth President.  “Our goal is to have a highly customizable platform to allow our customers to differentiate their products from typical off the shelf SoC products.”



“We are very pleased to contribute our AMBA Subsystem to the IoT Endpoint device”, says Jim Bruister, President of SoC Solutions. “This shows how efficiently this proactive ecosystem works in producing IoT products.  A great model to service the market”.


IoT DevCon 2017 Exhibiting Announcement

asicNorth will be showcasing the latest developments of the IoT Design EcoSystem at the IoT DevCon April 26th and 27th, 2017 in Santa Clara, CA.  asicNorth will be presenting “Custom SoC Design for IoT” in the “Living on the Edge” conference track at 10:55am on the 27th.  The 2017 IoT DevCon will focus on technologies ranging from IoT device design to gateway deployment and from software optimization strategies to security solutions as well as applying deep-learning techniques to monitor and manage the enormous loads of device-generated data. Core topics will include:


  • Designing ultra-low power IoT nodes
  • Exploring connectivity protocols and industry standards
  • Building hubs to harness the data explosion
  • Utilizing software development environments for M2M applications
  • Understanding and managing security-related issues, taking the IoT into the cloud
  • Making money with the Internet of Things
  • How IoT technology will affect business and product development
  • The future of what IoT will bring


Come visit us at booth #G5.



About ASIC North:
ASIC North, INC was founded in January 2000 with one purpose in mind; to deliver the highest quality design services possible. In an industry that can be quite volatile at times, it is important to have a design partner you can depend upon to deliver the VLSI designs you need when you need them.  Today, asicNorth is enabling high-tech industry leaders and startups alike with a variety of digital, analog, mixed-signal, and RF designs.  These capabilities, along with our focus on IP Design, Circuit Characterization; Supply Chain Management; and Turnkey Products allow us to support the needs of our clients at any point in the IC product development cycle.  asicNorth is “Bringing Analog / Mixed-Signal to ASIC Design”.  To learn more about asicNorth, visit us at


About Faraday Technology:


Faraday Technology Corporation is a leading fabless ASIC / SoC and silicon IP (intellectual property) provider, ranking in top 50 fabless IC suppliers in the world and top 10 in Taiwan. Headquartered in Hsinchu Science Park, Taiwan, Faraday has services and technical support offices around the world, including in US, Japan, Europe and China. Since established in 1993, Faraday has been acknowledged its expertise and capabilities with over thousands of successful designs in a wide range of application, covering consumer electronics, multimedia, display, communication, networking, and PC peripheral/storage, along with hundreds of million ASIC chips shipped annually worldwide.  Faraday is one of the few leading ASIC / SoC vendors with a comprehensive self-developed IP portfolio. Accumulating thousands of valuable IPs, Faraday’s IPs are mostly silicon-proven, and includes cell library, memory compiler, processor cores, analog IP, peripheral IP, and complete interface IP solutions. These IPs help to greatly lower customers’ integration risk, IP licensing costs, and shorten the time-to-market.  To learn more about Faraday Technology, visit us at


About Silicon Creations:


Silicon Creations provides world class silicon IP for precision and general purpose timing (PLLs), SerDes and high-speed differential IOs.  We have a deep commitment to our customer’s success and to providing complete support. Our careful development procedures and strong QA result in robust and correct designs. And in our labs we comprehensively test all key blocks. As a result our IP has an excellent record of first silicon to mass production in over 300 chips for over 100 customers. Our IP is used in diverse applications including mobile phones, consumer devices, processors, network devices and medical devices and in technologies from 180nm to 7nm, and has earned “best-of” awards from TSMC and SMIC.

Silicon Creations was founded in 2006, is self-funded and is growing. We have development centers in Atlanta, USA and Krakow, Poland and world-wide sales representation.  To learn more about Silicon Creations, visit us at


About SoC Solutions:


SoC Solutions was founded in March, 2000 and is a privately held company in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area.  Our focus is to enable the next generation of IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (Machine to Machine) silicon devices by supplying our IP Subsystems and following them with world class services to successfully build innovative “connected” products.  Our experienced ASIC and Embedded Software designers have a rich history of designing SOCs with embedded microprocessors which are crucial to building small connected smart chips.

Our pre-configured IP Subsystems have been used successfully in numerous ASICs, SOCs, FPGAs and Structured ASIC designs, many of which have been in production for years. We have supplied IP to major OEMs and Semiconductor companies alike.  Our well established comprehensive development flows help us quickly produce high quality products that will jumpstart any SOC design effort,  Our processes include extensive verification at both system-level and stand-alone IP core level.   We have a complete commitment to our customer success which has built solid partnerships and repeat customers and has resulted in an excellent record of product success.  To learn more about SoC Solutions, visit us at


About UMC:


UMC is a leading global semiconductor foundry that provides advanced technology and manufacturing for applications spanning every major sector of the IC industry. UMC’s robust foundry solutions allow chip designers to leverage the company’s leading-edge processes, which include 28nm poly-SiON and gate-last High-K/Metal Gate technology, mixed signal/RFCMOS, and a wide range of specialty technologies. Production is supported through 10 wafer manufacturing facilities that include two advanced 300mm fabs; Fab 12A in Taiwan and Singapore-based Fab 12i. Fab 12A consists of Phases 1-4 which are in production for customer products down to 28nm. Construction has been completed for Phases 5&6, with future plans for Phases 7&8. The company employs over 17,000 people worldwide and has offices in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Europe, and the United States.  To learn more about UMC, visit us at




The man with a carrier of the silicone wafers

Eleven Semiconductor Companies Forecast to Account for 78% of Semi Capex in 2017

Survey results that will be posted in the March Update to the 20th anniversary 2017 edition of IC Insights’ McClean Report show that eleven companies are forecast to have semiconductor capital expenditure budgets greater than $1.0 billion in 2017, and account for 78% of total worldwide semiconductor industry capital spending this year (Figure 1).  By comparison, there were eight companies in 2013 with capital spending in excess of $1.0 billion.  As shown in the figure, three of the top 11 major capital spenders (Intel, GlobalFoundries, and ST) are forecast to increase their semiconductor spending outlays by 25% or more in 2017.

The biggest percentage increase in spending by a major spender in 2016 came from the China-based pure-play foundry SMIC, which ran its fabrication facilities at ≥95% utilization rate for much of last year. SMIC initially set its 2016 capital expenditure budget at $2.1 billion.  However, in November, the company raised its spending budget to $2.6 billion, which resulted in outlays that were 87% greater than in 2015.
In contrast to the surge of spending at SMIC last year, the weak DRAM market spurred both Samsung and SK Hynix to reduce their total 2016 capital spending by 13% and 14%, respectively.   Although their total outlays declined, both companies increased their spending for 3D NAND flash in 2016.  As shown, Micron is forecast to cut its spending by 13% in 2017, even after including Inotera, which was acquired by Micron in December of last year.

In 2016, GlobalFoundries had plenty of capacity available.  As a result, the company cut its capital expenditures by a steep 62%.  As shown, the company is forecast to increase its spending this year by 33%, the second-largest increase expected among the major spenders (though its 2017 spending total is still expected to be about half of what the company spent in 2015).  It is assumed that almost all of the spending increase this year will be targeted at installing advanced processing technology (the company announced that it is focusing its efforts on developing 7nm technology and will skip the 10nm node).

Figure 1

After spending about $1.06 billion last year, Sony is expected to drop out of the major spender listing in 2017 as it winds down its outlays for capacity additions for its image sensor business and its spending drops below $1.0 billion. As shown in Figure 1, ST is expected to replace Sony in the major spender listing this year by increasing its spending by 73% to $1.05 billion.  It should be noted that ST has stated that this surge in outlays is expected to be a one year event, after which it will revert back to limiting its capital spending to ≤10% of its sales.

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