ARM buys chip design tech expert Prolific

British chip design giant ARM has announced the acquisition of long-time partner Prolific, a specialist in automated IC design optimisation technology.

ARM has long used Prolific's technology to help reduce development time and improve the performance of its cell-based integrated circuit designs, but the acquisition - for an undisclosed sum - will see Prolific folded directly into the ARM Physical IP team based in San Jose, California.

“We have been successfully collaborating with Prolific for a number of years," explained ARM's Simon Segars, general manager of the Physical IP division. "The technology and expertise that will come with this acquisition will expand our capabilities to accelerate ecosystem adoption of advanced process nodes at 20nm and below."

That latter note is key to ARM's future success: as the process size dips below 20nm, designing the processors to avoid noise and leakage becomes increasingly difficult. By folding Prolific's technology directly into its design process, ARM will be able to speed its chip design even on smaller process sizes.

"Prolific has a long history of improving the efficiency of complex physical design process flows," claimed Prolific founder and current president Paul de Dood. "The ARM partnership will benefit from faster time to market for advanced node solutions through the addition of Prolific’s leading-edge optimization tools, which enable optimum power, performance and area with accelerated development timelines."

The announcement comes as ARM makes a concerted push to steal server market share from rival Intel, with licensee Calxeda launching a new server-oriented SoC design and ARM itself releasing its first instruction set architecture to include 64-bit memory addressing.