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IBM Tricks out its ASIC Line

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- IBM Monday unveiled plans to increase its made-to-order chip-building business by offering pre-configured components with enough room for customers to customize to their needs.

To that end, the Armonk, N.Y.-based company opened its Customized Control Processor (CCP) service for networking systems and their corresponding sectors.

Currently, IBM has manufacturing deals with chipmakers, such as Sony , AMD . The company also makes custom chips for NVIDIA , QUALCOMM and Xilinx .

But IBM noticed that 80 percent of its designs were being used and re-used by its customers. The new plan is to pair off the chip technologies of IBM's Microelectronics division with the design capabilities of its Engineering and Technology Services (E&TS) division to take on more phases of customers' designs for them and shave about six months off of the chip production cycle.

"IBM wants to be more than just an ASIC supplier; we want to be a custom solution provider," IBM vice president of custom chip solutions Tom Reeves said in a statement. "We're number one in ASICs worldwide because we can integrate more function onto a chip, and do it better than anyone in the industry. But we realize that ASICs are not for everyone; so, we want customers who would not normally consider an ASIC to know that we are willing to work with them to tailor a solution to fit their needs."

Short for application specific integrated circuit, ASICs are chips designed for particular applications and built by connecting existing circuit building blocks in new ways. Since the building blocks already exist in a library, it is much easier to produce a new ASIC than to design a new chip from scratch. The digital signal processor chip on a modem is an ASIC, for example.

The company says in some instances, it can help where a large portion of the design is already done. In other instances, the solution may involve using IBM custom design expertise to tailor an already-existing standard product to the customer's specifications, as was done in IBM's design of the PowerPC processor for the Nintendo GameCube.

Big Blue said it will highlight specific details of the CCP service and its capabilities Wednesday at the Embedded Processor Forum here in the form of a new white paper.