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Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

USB 3.1: Synopsys still King of the Hill

October 30th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena

This week Synopsys added even more fire-power to the arsenal that makes them one of the biggest IP vendors in the world. This time it’s USB 3.1, which the company says consists of a …

“DesignWare USB 3.1 Device Controller, an IP Virtual Development Kit and verification IP to accelerate the development of high-performance storage, digital office and mobile SoC applications. [The new product] supports 10 Gbps data transfer rates, power-down capabilities and compatibility with existing USB 3.0 software stacks and device protocols. Based on the DesignWare USB 3.0 Controller IP architecture, which has shipped in more than 100 million SoCs, the DesignWare USB 3.1 Device Controller IP enables designers to integrate USB 3.1 functionality with significantly less risk and faster time-to-market.”

As always, Synopsys delivers in a big way, which is why interviewing their people is always so much fun. These guys enjoy their work and know they’re on top, and not necessarily in that order. My phone call around the USB 3.1 announcement was with Eric Huang, Senior Product Marketing Manager for USB Digital IP at Synopsys, and was lively from start to finish.

He started by talking about trends: “The market trends pushing USB 3.1 includes the demand for more video and image creation, from 4K to 8K video and 8MP to 20MP or higher still images, supporting more video, audio, and social media consumption each and every day, which at this point is at 63 Gigabytes per day per person, and demand for continued drop in data storage prices combined with increased performance, lower power, faster data transfer, and faster shut down.”

Truth be told, Eric didn’t specifically say these things, but he did point to slide 5 in his presentation and read all of these motivations listed there. He also pointed out that with each passing day, consumers can buy cheaper and cheaper devices with more and more memory, and yet for folks who do things like video editing, they just cannot get enough memory to handle the workload they’re asking of their systems.

Hence, to get enough memory for their visual creativity, they have got to use The Cloud and other such paradigms to store their data, and can’t just rely on the limited capacity internal data storage of their work systems. Hence, to get it off those system and into better storage silos, people have got to have faster, faster, faster USB connectivity. Hence, the Synopsys USB 3.1 solution will be sucked up by a ginormous customer base hungry for that capacity.

Synopsys_USB_3_1 IP_Solution_graphicTo make it easier for the slow learner on my end of the line, I asked Eric to reiterate this whole message in 50 words or less.

He accepted the challenge and said, “With our USB 3.1 announcement, we are accelerating USB integration at every step – design, verification, system engineering, and software/hardware engineering.

“Everybody who gets started [on projects using this IP] will write the drivers, verify them, put them into hardware, test it, and tape it out faster when compared to [using anything from] our competitors. We’re going to save our customers many, many months of engineering, particularly because we’ve done so many designers before.

“I say to customers, ‘We’ve got a team to help you, so that your software engineers can get started [on projects built around our IP] on the very same day the RTL is delivered.”

Exhibiting my journalists-are-always-skeptics chops, I asked Eric how the competition would respond to this gauntlet Synopsys has thrown down.

He chuckled and said, “You know them well. They’ll acquire some technology or they’ll license some technology, and they’ll do the best they can. Of course, we’ve been the leader in USB for 14 years, according to Gartner Group, and we’ve been doing it overall for 18-to-19 years.

“We’re the leaders because we’ve been able to retain good people, architects who work on specs, have built controllers and verified them, and [provided product and services] to hundreds of millions of customers. Our competitors will try to fight for some of this market, but I think we’re in good shape with respect to [those challenges].

“If our customers want to be leaders, or become leaders, in their market segment, they’re going to need to use Synopsys’ USB 3.1. Anybody starting a project today, anyone intending to launch a product in 2017, needs to keep that in mind!”

I closed out our conversation with the question many ask: How are system developers going to differentiate their product if 90 percent of that system is based on the same IP that every other system developer is using?

Eric answered quite joyfully, “I love this question!

“Chip makers need to use IP because of the productivity [boost it offers], which is how we have lowered the product-development cycle from 18 months to 12 months to 9 months. Yet, as you go down in process nodes, there are more and more technical challenges, with every chip having to have more IP and each block having to be more complex.

“So, the real answer is – you don’t want to differentiate on that 90 percent, but on the 10 percent that you don’t get [from third-party vendors]. You want to put your best engineers to work on those things that will make your product great for the customer to use. You want companies like Synopsys to source all of your IP, and you want to put your smartest people to work on that other 10 percent!”

Talking to Eric, it’s clear he believes that helping engineers do their best work is why he’s doing his best to deliver on the philosophy that Synopsys aspires to: “The reason we have the market share we have, is because we’ve done the best to do something really difficult, and yet make it as easy as possible to use for our customers!”


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