Semiconductor IP News and Trends Blog
Is Software More Complex than Hardware?
Has software surpassed hardware in terms of complexity? Data from 90nm to 22nm suggests this may be the case.
Getting to tape-out is still a big problem, but it’s certainly not the only one—and maybe not even the biggest. Software development has become a huge challenge. Recent IBS data (see Figure 3) agrees with other evidence that software has become the big driver of cost and schedule. What is unique to the IBS data is confirmation that this trend accelerates at each lower geometric silicon node. Like chip hardware, software—including firmware, operating systems, middleware and even applications—becomes more complex with each generation of Moore’s Law.
Software tends to be the main product differentiator, in large part because hardware has become a commodity—a trend that will likely continue as subsystems and processor platforms become too expensive for most companies to develop. In a “fast market” such as mobile handsets, manufacturers that miss the market by as little as 9 to 12 months may lose $50M to $100M in potential revenue. This revenue loss combined with the extra development time required by software is one reason why software and hardware co-design approaches are so important. In addition, it explains the rise in popularity of virtual and FPGA-based prototype systems and emulation platforms.