The digital transformation of the world is changing economies everywhere and doing it at lightning pace. Sectors able to capitalize on the power of the Fifth Wave of Computing in the form of artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of things (IoT) and 5G mobile networks are benefitting most, so surely it must be boom time for the technology sector?
In many respects it is, and you won’t hear many complaints about Fifth Wave opportunities in Silicon Valley, in Shenzhen or a host of other technology super-hubs. Yet along with the upside, the vast majority of tech companies are also experiencing some of the most challenging periods in their histories.
The truth is our sector is under constant pressure to do more. As a result, all semiconductor players must plan more carefully yet simultaneously react even faster to technical and business changes.
Companies developing products from constrained single-core chips to full scale hybrid computing solutions must experiment at hyper-speed to find their magic recipe and get to market quickly – while still keeping a tight rein on costs.
This heady mix of commercial pressures adds up to developers facing a classic innovator’s dilemma: how to move ‘thoughtfully fast’ while maintaining a grip on quality, security and sanity. It’s something we care about a great deal because of Arm’s position in the technology ecosystem.
So, we have made a bold move: Arm Flexible Access, an entirely new way of accessing our industry-leading chip technologies in a far quicker, easier and ultimately flexible way.
There are two fundamental principles sitting behind Arm Flexible Access:
1. The need to deliver the freedom to innovate via easier access to a huge range of Arm IP, tools, models and support that can be downloaded instantly for immediate evaluation, experimentation and full system on chip (SoC) design.
2. The need to ease the burden during companies’ experimentation phase with a new payment model and license fees payable only at the point of manufacture (tape out), and only for IP included in the final design.
Arm Flexible Access is a fundamental shift
The changes we are introducing in our IP licensing business are significant and a direct result of what is happening in the backyards of our 500+ licensing partners. That is particularly true when it comes to IoT, AI and 5G applications. But our experience has shown us that long-time and new customers can reap great rewards equally from being able to experiment more easily before committing to a particular technology path, and Arm Flexible Access enables that.
One ambitious AI start-up, AlphaICs, is already a fan. AlphaICs is aiming to create the next-generation of AI compute for autonomous edge and data center applications, as well as low-power embedded applications. These broad-ranging ambitions mean AlphaICs needs access to a range of Arm CPUs and security IP, but our traditional upfront licensing model made it tough for their balance sheet to accommodate. Arm Flexible Access changes that.
AlphaICs has now paid a modest upfront fee to access all of the chip technologies it needs, including state-of-the-art security. Only when the company completes its final product design and moves into manufacturing will it pay a production license, with royalties following as its product ships.
I asked AlphaICs CEO Nagendra Nagaraja what Arm Flexible Access meant for the company’s development approach. He told me: “We are working on several products to address AI use cases in automotive, IoT gateways and edge computing. For this, we need access to a wide range of IP and the ability to rapidly evaluate, prototype and design. Arm’s Flexible Access model gives us that agile approach to IP for the first time”.
Arm Flexible Access: multiple ways to work with us
In addition to our current licensing model, the Arm Flexible Access program is open to any company – big, small, old or new, and a host of our existing partners have already given it a vote of approval. Trond Sæther, Director IPR at Nordic Semiconductor, a fabless semiconductor company specializing in low-power wireless communication, told us that “freely selecting what we need and then paying only for what we use through Arm Flexible Access will enable us to deliver the right solution every time.”
Personally, I think this epitomizes the program and how Arm will be able to better support companies’ early product development phases. Ultimately, for Arm, this is about paying attention to the needs of the whole industry and we expect to see a marked acceleration in industry innovation and experimentation as a result.
As I look back at our first 30 years and look forward to the next 30, I know there are near-infinite possibilities to what our partners can create using Arm technology. Only now they can do it faster and be even more creative than before. I can’t wait to see the results.
Learn more about Arm Flexible Access or contact your Arm account manager today.
Click here to view our press release.