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Secure Chip Design Effort for DoD Ramps


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Microsoft and Qualcomm Technologies will lead the second phase of a Pentagon chip initiative designed to take advantage of U.S. microelectronic capabilities while securing its technology supply chain.

The two companies oversaw initial development from last year as part of the Department of Defense’s Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes (RAMP) initiative. IBM was an early stage partner with Microsoft.

The $ 200 million chip initiative is designed to strengthen America’s microelectronics industry base after years of relying primarily on Asian suppliers. RAMP emphasizes circuit design and secure manufacturing. IBM and Microsoft won a $ 24.5 million Phase 1 contract last year to improve the design security of physical back-end integrated circuits.

When awarding contracts for the second phase, officials from the National Security Technology Accelerator said the next step will be the demonstration of chip designs at or below the 22nm process node, including SoCs that can be designed and verified using advanced process technology.

The design focus focuses on post-RTL design stages such as location and route and design verification. Design goals include reduced power consumption, improved performance and reliability, and a smaller physical size.

RAMP does not directly deal with chip packaging or radiation hardened circuit design, program officials noted.

Microsoft will lead a team that includes Ansys, Applied Materials, BAE Systems, Battelle Memorial Institute, Cadence Design Systems, Cliosoft, Flex Logix, GlobalFoundries, Intel Federal, Raytheon Intelligence and Space, Siemens EDA, Synopsys, Tortuga Logic and Zero ASIC.

In a blog post, Microsoft announced that it will host the resulting IC development platform on its Azure Government cloud. “By leveraging cloud-based secure design capabilities, RAMP will increase the number of foundries available for DoD, improve resiliency, and drive growth of the national semiconductor supply chain,” added Tom Keane of Microsoft.

The secure cloud service includes artificial intelligence and machine learning automation tools as well as “quantifiable assurance,” a measure to ensure the security of dual-use devices that could be used in weapons or equipment. commercial IoT platform, for example. The Flex Logic team member, which is licensing its on-board FPGA technology to the Pentagon’s largest research agency, said it is bringing its reconfigurable technology to the RAMP initiative to boost security and quantifiable assurance.

The framework for integrated circuit design and manufacture assumes that no device is secure or “zero trust” and that all microelectronic components must be validated prior to deployment.

RAMP is part of a concerted DoD effort to secure its technology supply chain and leverage domestic integrated circuit design capabilities while reducing reliance on offshore chip manufacturing and packaging , as well as testing and assembly.

These efforts also highlight how the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and military services go beyond the DoD Trust Foundry model. One reason is that trusted facilities cannot support advanced process technology, slowing the adoption of DoD technology.

Qualcomm, the phase two RAMP contractor, had previously partnered with Intel Technologies to address the lack of domestic access to processing technology at 7 nanometers and below. Among other things, this previous phase addressed the physical design steps used by factoryless chipmakers to prepare integrated circuit designs for wafer fabrication.


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