This year I signed books in the Fractal booth (compliments of Fractal) and let me tell you it was quite an experience. IP quality is a very touchy subject and the source of many more tape-out delays than I had imagined. As it turns out, commercial IP is the biggest offender which makes no sense to me whatsoever. Even more shocking, one of the big IP vendors is the biggest IP quality offender!?!?
Signing books gives me a chance to network, make new friends, and gather information. Not only did I get to hear the IP discussions in the booth while signing books, I had a few discussions of my own. I also met quite a few Intel people but they were tight lipped about the status of 10nm. One thing they did comment on was the way the Intel board threw Intel CEO BK under the bus but that is another blog.
One clear example of IP QA dysmorphism: A company I spoke with has different IP QA groups using different tools and methods. Mainly because of acquisitions and mergers but still, and we are talking about serious tool inefficiencies and redundant IP QA staff that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. EDA is all about buying tools instead of hiring masses of people and brute forcing design, right? But not in IP QA? It really was shocking to me how many IP QA landmines there are out there just waiting to be stepped on.
It reminds me of a situation we had locally. My wife and I were driving on the highway near us a while back and she pointed out some dead trees from the drought and we wondered when they would be cleared. Sure enough, one fell and hit a car killing the driver. Now the trees are being cleared because that is how our local Government works: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” unless of course someone gets killed. The same thing happened to a dam near us during the downpours last year. Apparently, they knew the spillway was not structurally sound but there wasn’t budget to fix it. There was budget however to remove thousands of people from their homes and host them in evacuation centers while they wondered if their homes would be there when they were allowed to return.
Bottom line: The IP QA crises will probably not kill a person or destroy homes, but it could definitely kill a design and get people fired. As an IP Vendor you will lose business because the “Quality IP Vendor” reputation that is earned over the years can be lost overnight.
IP Quality really is a challenge since you do not know who to trust. Writing your own tools and checks without knowing what everyone else (Foundries, IP Vendors, Competitors, etc…) is doing is no longer acceptable in my opinion, nor is just accepting IP from a vendor without independent checks that may or may not be within acceptable foundry guidelines.
The answer of course is buying a tool from an independent company (Fractal) who works with Foundries, IP Vendors, and the top semiconductor companies around the world. Crowdsourcing has truly come to IP and Library QA, absolutely.