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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.

Bill Martin: clarifying Accellera’s IP Tagging 1.0 Standard

April 30th, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena

Bill Martin, President/VP of Engineering at E-System Design, sent a thoughtful response to my April 25th blog regarding Accellera’s recently released Soft IP Tagging 1.0 standard. I appreciate the time he took to clarify the ongoing need for such a standard.


I was part of VSIA when Kathy Werner was driving the IP tagging standards. I am happy this one from Accellera is now out [Soft IP Tagging 1.0] and the various users can determine how best to apply it. It is a large step forward, but only one of many required.

Unfortunately, the current system for IP tagging can be easily ‘hacked’ to disable any tracking. Simple text editing the source code and removing a few lines can completely remove the tag. But Accellera’s standard is a good first step to hone the standard; understanding how it works and does not work for various constituents.

From my perspective, the overhead to use this is very low and creating IP Tag screening software should be easy and fast to implement. Any future version that would include encrypting/decrypting, however, is non-trivial from all ecosystem members and will take much more coordination between IP/EDA suppliers.

Many might complain that this would prevent IP consumers from changing an IP block. Many are split on if IP should be modified or not to fit specific applications. I fall on the product side rather than the service side (this is another long topic). As some of these specifications reach 1000+ pages, to assume a user can make minor modifications without causing additional errors is unrealistic.

My ex-development team had decades of experience in various standards and understood all of the nuances and interrelationships required to make a standard work. Their experience, coupled with continuous learning, was ingrained into their products. This benefited the IP consumers/integrators, and was applied during the development but also during verification and validation.

Here are some of my thoughts on the usefulness to each party involved. As you mentioned in your blog, there are 3 active players that can derive value from IP tagging:

IP creator
* Can help track usage across their customer base
* Can help proactively send updates to users that specific IP has been updated and a new release should be use (functional issues)
* Fair compensation for their IP (depends on what type of contract was agreed upon)
* Ensures the Export controls are followed especially on sensitive IP (encryption as an example)

IP integrator
* Prior to tape out, they can run a check to make sure that they are using the latest IP versions to prevent costly respins.
* They can also see the number of times each IP has been used to justify future maintenance or renewals. (Help negotiating)

End product owner
* They also need to ensure that Export controls are correctly adhered to. And this is criminal matter, not just a slap on the wrist.
* They have a huge stake in products working the first time and minimizing respin dollars and time. So a last minute check might be very appropriate for them.

Other players that can also benefit:

* They make money when they go into high volume manufacturing.
* Any delays are very costly to them. They would want to make sure that any IP used is the latest versions.
* They also need IP suppliers to be successful and survive.
* Without IP providers, Foundries would be limited to the IP that they have or they would need to develop lots of IP required for their customers.
* I think Foundries have realized they are more successful with strong IP providers.
* My preference: Have the Foundries screen for IP tags in various products and send back to IP suppliers when their tag is used to create a closed system, from IP supplier to Foundry, that produces the silicon.

US Gov’t…..ah yes
* US Gov’t has restrictions on where various technologies can be sold/sent.
* The ECCN (Export Control Classification Number) can be a huge help monitoring this. In some ways, I expect the US Gov’t at some point to state that all IP needs to use this type of system and make it hack proof.

Over the past decades, we have seen numerous product recalls – everything from autos with failing brakes, airbags, accelerators, etc., to OTC medications (Tylenol, etc.) to food recalls (chickens, cantaloupes, peanut butter, etc.) – that were traced back to a specific supplier and location.

Given all of this, clearly there can be lots of value derived from using IP Tagging by everyone involved in the semiconductor industry.


More on the author …

Although Bill Martin is focused on Signal and Power Integrity for 2.5/3D packaging, he has been part of semiconductor/EDA and IP for decades. His years at Mostek, VLSI Technology, and Mentor all involved all creating, using, and/or selling IP. Additionally, the GSA IP ROI Calculator was his creation from many years ago, “a neat little Excel spread sheet that helps understand the costs of IP.”

Bill keep up on various changes in the technology, and on occasion discusses developments with IPextreme CEO Warren Savage. Bill has written various blogs for Warren’s GSA Interest Group that have been posted over the past 6 months, including:

* Learning from an old dog: easier IP integration [read here]
* Brave new world 2.5/3D packaging impact on IP [read here]


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