February 12, 2007
Roundtable: Is IP Really that Bad?
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Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
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IP was front at center last month at DesignCon in Santa Clara, showcased in no less than 5 different panels that discussed numerous topics including: how to select IP (carefully), how to encrypt IP (very carefully), how to verify IP (very, very carefully), the current state of the art with respect to analog/mixed-signal IP (don't go there), and the business impact of IP quality on market growth for the industry (some good news, some bad).

There was, not surprisingly, significant overlap in the commentary that emerged from the various panels, but one set of statistics presented at the IP business impact panel was of particular interest. VSI Alliance President
Kathy Werner moderated that particular session, and led off with a slide that referenced an
EE Times survey of customer attitudes about IP.

Per Werner's slide:

Reasons People Use IP:

  • Improved time to market, 3/4

  • Reduced risk by using proven technology, 2/3

  • But ...

  • Half say IP quality is a disadvantage

  • Half say that IP is hard to adapt to their application

  • A third say IP generally doesn't meet their specific needs

  • And ...

  • Three quarters of respondents say they expect IP to require modification

  • A fifth don't even expect the IP to work as claimed

  • The point was clear. People want to use IP, but continue to have trouble trusting IP. This was not news to anyone in attendance at DesignCon, even if the slide did provide a more quantitative set of data points.

    The idea that people want IP, but are ambivalent with regards to quality, would also not have been news to participants in a roundtable discussion I moderated on Tuesday, January 16th. The topic of that discussion was IP as well, in particular:
    Is IP Really that Bad?

    Panelists included:

    Warren Savage, President & CEO at IPextreme, IP licensing facilitator

    Joel Silverman, Vice President of Marketing at Kawasaki, IP provider & consumer

    Graham Allan, Director of Marketing at MOSAID, an IP provider

    Ian Mackintosh, President & Chairman of OCP-IP, a standards body

    In reviewing my notes from the roundtable, I was struck by how closely the comments of panelists (see below) mirror the general sensibilities of the many panelists that comprised the IP conversations at DesignCon – with one caveat.

    Star IP providers MIPS and ARM each appeared on (separate) IP panels at DesignCon. Representatives of both companies were adamant that IP quality is not an impediment to market growth. In response to both MIPS and ARM, at their respective panels, the comment was then made by other participants that microprocessors, with all due respect, are not as tough a nut to crack as other categories of silicon IP.

    Consider that an informative and/or whimsical segue to the following conversation.


    Roundtable Discussion – January 16, 2007

    Peggy Aycinena – Can you address the recent 'controversy' over the EDA Consortium's inclusion of IP revenue with
    EDA revenue? I'm not sure I see why this is controversial. What do you all think?

    Warren Savage – From my standpoint, I would be one of the detractors, [arguing] that IP is not an extension to the EDA business model. It's been proven that EDA and IP are separate. IPextreme is a technology licensing company working with the large IDMs, helping them to monitize their internal IP to the global marketplace. We serve as a licensing agent, supporting the agents and outsourcing the IP function for vendors. I'm quite bullish on IP on the premise that IP is the fastest-growing aspect of the semiconductor industry, outpacing growth in semiconductors themselves, and EDA.

    Joel Silverman – I also disagree with including IP revenue with EDA revenue. From Kawasaki's standpoint, we're a pure-play ASIC [house]. IP is critical [to us]. It was an early decision for us to develop IP internally or purchase IP from an external [source]. The only stuff we do internally today is key IP related to areas we already have expertise in, like SerDes [serializer/deserializer]. In many other areas where we don't have the expertise [we purchase IP].

    Graham Allan – I would agree with Joel and Warren that the IP/EDA combo camp [is inappropriate]. That was more appropriate when IP was in its infancy, but now I think there's much more IP being sold. One of the reasons that the IP market is attractive is its high growth rate. Interestingly, you can have an end market that's in decline with respect to growth – for instance, ASIC starts are no longer as numerous as they used to be, and the number of semiconductor companies is declining – however, there are still a tremendous number of companies who need IP. One of our IP products has over 175 users. [There are] many companies out there that have 100, 200, or
    [even] 500 people who cannot develop the internal expertise – for instance, in SerDes or processors cores – and that's a tremendous opportunity for the IP providers.

    Ian Mackintosh – I also believe IP revenue should be [kept] separate from EDA revenue. I represent OCP/IP, which is a standards organization [working towards the] sharing of IP. I also believe IP revenue should be kept separate from EDA revenue. I think there really is a future for IP. Today, it's a successful and growing market, [plus] there are variations on a theme of the IP business model that are all being used successfully. Although the general quality of IP is not good across the board – it surprised me [to learn from a recent poll], for instance, just how negative users and buyers are – this [situation] can be helped considerably with the
    development of standards.

    Warren Savage – There's something that can be said for Ian's comment about standards. We're involved with a number of standards – Bluetooth, FlexRay [automotive network communications protocol] – that have standards bodies that not only control specifications, but also facilitate testing labs that IP can be run through and certified. You can't use the Bluetooth symbol without a stamp, and the same [is true] with USB where there are certification laboratories that must be used. The requirements for standardization is getting pushed back [to the IP providers] from the semiconductor companies. The [users] have to insist that the IP providers provide IP with a
    [certification] stamp.

    Peggy Aycinena – So there is a way to certify IP? This is a topic of great interest.

    Joel Silverman – IP certification is not very simple any more. It used to be simple, but now with big, complex boxes the whole process has gotten much more sensitive. At Kawasaki, we build up all the blocks. Everything we license, we build into a test chip. If there's analog, especially, we send it through internal testing. If it's a USB or PCI Express, we take them to compliance workshops to verify them. Some of the blocks have other standards, as well. For instance, there might be USB on one side and ULPI [interface standard for high-speed USB 2.0 IP systems], or some other macro-cell interface on the other side. We also build those up [for testing]. By the time
    we're through, even if we've verified the IP, we still build a test chip.

    Graham Allan – I want to echo the importance of chip verification. We verify on a test chip, but the critical issue is that it doesn't end there. It's analogous to the chip vendors themselves. Chip vendors [today] can't just send out a chip with applications notes. Now the chip gets integrated [in to a system]. Documentation and implementation guidance all require notes [that ship with the chip]. That's the difference between a printed circuit board and a chip. Our approach is to test it in test silicon, to create a comprehensive test report, and then to accompany that with very detailed information for how to integrate [the IP]. It is the customer's
    responsibility to work with [the IP vendor] in that regard. We find that we have areas where a customer might find a problem and then gets in touch with the vendor. IP vendors are very responsive. If a customer has a question, it will be answered in hours, if not less. It's important for the customers to ask [questions]. [Of course], the integrators must be sure to follow the guidelines [provided by the vendor].

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    -- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.


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