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Arteris Upgrades NoC for AI

November 20, 2018

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Whereas human intelligence lives in neurons and synapses, artificial intelligence resides in transistors and wires. Arteris IP helps engineers design the wires. At the recent Linley Fall Processor Conference, the company announced several upgrades for its licensable network-on-a-chip (NoC) technology, including some AI features. The FlexNoC 4 Interconnect IP and AI Package are available now.

Although the upgrades are useful for designing the interconnects on any chip, some features are particularly useful for processing deep neural networks (DNNs). For example, a new intelligent multicast feature enables a source (such as a CPU) to simultaneously broadcast the same data to multiple destinations (such as memory-mapped coprocessors). Multicasting optimizes internal bandwidth while minimizing the internal wiring. In a multicore AI chip, it can distribute DNN-training weights and image-map updates to multiple cores at different memory addresses.

These and other improvements may persuade more architects to license FlexNoC 4 instead of designing their own interconnect or using one from a CPU vendor such as Arm. But the third-party options are narrowing. Intel recently removed a competitor by acquiring and assimilating NetSpeed Systems. The only remaining third party is Sonics, which is more focused on power management lately. In practice, however, the main competitors are internal designs; Arteris IP estimates only about 20% of SoCs use a licensed NoC. In the company’s favor are the growing maturity of its tools and the rising complexity of SoCs.

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