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IP-SoC day in Santa Clara: prepare the future, what’s coming next after IP based design?

IP-SoC day in Santa Clara: prepare the future, what’s coming next after IP based design?
by Eric Esteve on 04-05-2012 at 10:16 am

D&R IP-SoC Days Santa Clara will be held on April 10, 2012 in Santa Clara, CA and if you plan to attend, just register here. IP market is a small world, and EDA a small market if you look at the generated revenue… but both are essential building blocks for the semiconductor industry. It was not clear back in 1995 that IP will become essential: at that time, the IP concept was devalued by some products exhibiting poor quality level, un-efficient technical support, leading program manager to be very cautious to simply decide to buy. Making was sometimes more efficient…

Since 1995, the market has been cleaned up, the poor quality product suppliers disappearing (being bankrupt or sold for asset) and the remaining IP vendors have understood the lesson. None of the renewed vendor marketing a protocol based (digital) function would take the chance to launch a product which has not passed an extensive verification program, and the vendors of mixed-signal IP functions know that the “Day of Judgment” will be when the Silicon prototypes will be validated. This leaves very small room for low quality products, even if you may still find some new comers deliberately launching a poor quality RTL function, naively thinking that lowering the development cost will allow to sell at low price and buy market share, or some respected Analog IP vendor failing to deliver “at spec” function, just because… analog is analog, and sometimes closer to black magic than to science!

If you don’t trust me, just look at products like Application Processor for Wireless handset, or for Set-Top-Box: these chips are made at 80% of reused functions, whether internal or coming from an IP vendor. This means literally that several dozen functions, digital or mixed-signal, are IP. Would only one of these failed and a $50+ million SoC development will miss the market window. That said, will the IP concept, as it is today in 2011, will be enough to support the “More than Moore” trend? In other word, if IP in the 2000-10’s is like Standard Cell was in the 1980-90’s, what will be the IP of the 2020’s? You will find people addressing this question at IP-SoC Days!

So, the interesting question will be to know where the IP industry stands on the spectrum starting from a single IP function, ending to a complete system. Nobody would allege that we have reached the upper side of the spectrum and claim that you can source complete system from an IP vendor. Maybe the SC industry is not ready to source a complete IP system: what would be the added value of the Fabless companies if/when will occur?

In the past, IP vendors were far to be able to provide subsystem IP, requiring strong understanding of specific application and market segment, associated technical know-how of such application and, even more difficult to met, adequate funding to support up-front development. But they are starting to offer IP Subsystem, just look at the recent release of a “Complete sound IP subsystem” by Synopsys, or the emphasis put by Cadence on EDA360… So IP-SoC days will be no more IP-centric only, but IP Subsystem centric!

By Eric Estevefrom IPnest

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