Ken Brock is the Product Marketing Manager for DesignWare Logic Libraries at Synopsys. Ken shared with us here his view of the trends he sees for the future of semiconductor IP.
What Does the Future Hold for Semiconductor IP?
The marketplace for semiconductor IP (SIP) continues to grow at double digit rates. According to Gartner Dataquest, the number of third-party semiconductor design IP blocks in an average chip design will double from the current level and the SIP market will reach $2.3B in 2014. IBS and Semico believe the SIP market will be greater than $3 billion in 2014.
We see six major trends in IP:
- Convergence: The increased demand for “Smart” consumer electronics is driving more features and functionality into a single device such as the latest craze in tablets shown at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This trend is causing significant changes in SoC designs in areas such as power and performance requirements that drive technology node migrations, and in increased clock frequencies to keep up with bandwidth needs.
- Core versus Context: Does this function differentiate the SoC? Interfaces like PCI Express® and USB have to work but they don’t generally differentiate the SoC. As an IP vendor, we see many different applications spaces for our IP and we have to ensure that IP works over a broad range of configurations and products.
- Fab-outsourcing: More outsourcing of manufacturing means more opportunity for customers to use off-the-shelf IP to meet their design requirements, and more demand for IP vendors to create high-quality IP on the most advanced process nodes.
- Power, Performance, Area: As many semiconductor designs compete for the key sockets, having the fastest performance, lowest power and smallest area is often a key differentiator of the design with respect to processor performance, battery life, packaging cost and silicon cost. Choices of foundation IP (memory and logic) providers make a big difference between winners and also-rans.
- Consumer-driven schedules: Shorter time-to-market and more features means that designers need to de-risk schedules by using high-quality IP solutions that have been proven time and time again in the market place.
- Expense control: It is often less expensive for companies to buy third-party IP than to develop it themselves. This is particularly true in advanced nodes where the complexity of IP development increases rapidly with increasing data rates, restricted design rules and increasing variability. As an example, our estimate is that a 28nm standard cell and memory IP platform is at least five to 10 times as complex to design and verify as compared to a similar platform at 40nm.
With these trends as the backdrop, we see significant shifts in the SIP market as it continues to evolve during the next five years:
- Most SoCs will have about 70 to 80 percent of their functionality in reused IP (internal and/or 3rd party). The majority of these IP blocks will be memories with thousands of instances per chip all connected with a variety of standard cell configurations. Optimized standard cells and memories can significantly impact the performance, power and area of a SoC.
- Individual IP products will yield to more complex IP subsystems. These subsystems will include application-specific blocks and software. IP integration services will become increasingly important to validate the IP in the system context.
- Multi-core designs will drive increasingly complex architectures. A virtual prototype of the IP and the larger SoC will enable earlier and more efficient development of application software and middleware.
This is a pivotal time for the semiconductor IP industry as companies strive to develop the best solutions to help designers accelerate their time from concept to implementation. These solutions generate value throughout the design chain by accelerating hardware/software integration and systems validation, allowing efficient SoC architecture exploration and optimization, creating and optimizing functional blocks, and using high-quality semiconductor IP. Designers are turning to trusted third-party SIP solutions to help integrate advanced functionality with the least amount of risk. Winners will choose wisely.