In an attempt to open up a wider market for custom SoCs based around its processors, Arm has introduced a model based on an annual subscription and deferred license fee that makes it easier to switch between cores as needs change.
Under the Arm Flexible Access model customers pay annually what Arm calls “a modest fee” in order to gain access to training, support, models, and tools, but with license fees deferred until tapeout, together with the standard royalty payments made during production.
A spokesperson for Arm said: “Flexible Access is designed to help existing partners, new entrants, and non-traditional chip makers to address their needs for custom silicon designs. We’re giving chip designers the ability to experiment and design with all the IP, tools and software for bringing a fully customized SoC to market quickly.
“Flexible Access enables customers to fully experiment and evaluate design options at the beginning, investigative stage of their design cycle, and select the optimum IP that best meets their design objectives with payment due only at manufacture.”
Early access customers
Arm has signed up several companies to test the scheme, including established RF SoC maker Nordic Semiconductor in addition to startups AlphaICs and Invecas. Nordic has moved to the model because it makes it easier to choose cores for specific projects during the design process instead of having to determine in advance what it needs to license.
“Nordic’s range of advanced wireless products has expanded significantly in recent years in line with the rapid pace of innovation and new standards. With diverse markets and a broad line of products we need the ability to select exactly the right foundational processor, security technology and other important features for every project,“ said Trond Sæther, cofounder and director at Nordic.
AlphaICs CEO Nagendra Nagaraja said: “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 said the IP available through Arm Flexible Access includes the majority of Arm-based processors within the three Arm Cortex groups. According to the company, the processors in the scheme accounted for 75 percent of all Cortex CPU licenses signed over the last two years. It also includes Arm TrustZone and CryptoCell security IP, selected Mali GPUs, and system IP. The program covers the Cortex-M series from the M0 to the M7 as well as the Trustzone-enabled M23 and M33; three members of the Cortex-R family; and Cortex-A processors ranging from the A5 to the A53.