For system designers, increasing integration in integrated circuits brings both good news and a new problem. The good news is that each new silicon process node allows chip designers to pack more components—more processors, accelerators, memory, and peripheral controllers—into one chip. More components in one chip means higher performance, lower power, and less space. But more integration also means that many decisions system designers formerly made are now made by the chip designers, gradually shifting innovation and differentiation away from the system design team.
It is important for system designers to understand what the chip designers are thinking, and to reserve for themselves the freedom to differentiate their products. In this article we will examine an important category of applications and trace the evolution of chip designs serving those markets, with this new need in mind.