July 04, 2005
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor

by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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OCP-IP or the Open Core Protocol International Partnership is dedicated to making a common standard for intellectual property core interfaces, or sockets that facilitate "plug and play" System-on-Chip design. To make complex SoC design a reality for a broader audience, the industry needs a complete socket standard that everyone can use, no matter what their on-chip architecture is, or whose processor cores they're using. OCP-IP's mission is to drive the OCP to become the most widely used and adopted socket interface for SoC design. OCP-IP provides the tools and services to its members that are necessary for convenient implementation, maintenance and support of the standard socket
interface. OCP-IP is funded by annual dues from its three-tiered membership.

At DAC I had an opportunity to interview Ian Mackintosh, the President of OCP-IP, on the organization, his own background and his views on standards.

Are you employed by OCP-IP?

No. Actually there are zero employees of OCP-IP. That was the way I set it up, a virtual organization. I kind of modeled it after CCIT. Organizationally I have different groups of people that are all contractors other than the sort of free labor. The contracted types are like our operational people headquartered in Oregon. Our legal headquarters is in San Jose. In Oregon we have website people, graphics people, legal folks, PR people and marketing folks in general. We have support places for questions that come up. We have four sources for that right now. We just started doing support in the native Japanese language. We have a couple of otter contractors for support. Frankly, we don't have a large support role. This was very deliberate when this was set up. We have been around 3 ½ years. When we set this up we really did a good job with the information, the very consumable. Standards are not trivial things. They were very well written. We also did a good job with a number of datasheets, the specification and how it works, and the free verification software that we give away. We also have training programs, education for a few hours PowerPoint with audio assist. Not every one uses the free verification software although a lot do. About 80% of those who are entitled to use, do use it. The other group I didn't mention is that we have a number of working groups; the specification group, functional verification group, system level design group ... They've done terrific work in the area of SystemC. There we have been shipping transactional models for two years. We have shipped thousands of them. We have the authoritative, probably the original, document written on the subject of how to do this. We wrote that to promote discussion in the industry on where people can collaborate. We shipped thousand of copies of that one paper. We have been very productive jumping on the SystemC bandwagon. It is being heavily deployed. People are using it for architectural exploration, real SoC design work and so on. We have been very
prolific. At any one time I can count about 70 people in our working group including contractors working on our stuff.

If you are not an employee, then are you working for a company that is donating you services?

Actually, I have my own company that is contracting me to be running the program. So I literally am a contractor too. I was never employed by OCC-IP as an individual. It's a very interesting organization. It's has been very successful.

Did OCP-IP start and then find you or were you a driving force in establishing the organization?

I founded it. The origin is intriguing. The industry was searching for a socket standard, basically what interface am I going to put on my board. Many year ago, I fact, if you look at it VSIA (Virtual Socket Interface Alliance) was originally chartered to do it. The OCP standard actually existed before that organization was born. The league was actually offered a candidate of that specification. Of course, people wanted to do their own thing. As time went on the VSIA spec (I am actually the steward of that spec) there was some work done that was kind of interesting but the spec was not completed. There should be sections covering data, control and test. The specification they
produced didn't cover control and test at all, mostly data and there incomplete. So about a year ago or more we functionally captured everything they had done in that area. There was nothing in the specification that was being used. There was zero adoption. We superset it and it has been endorsed for over a year as the socket of choice by VSIA.

I am curious about you role and your own background. What caused you to undertake this task?

My background? I did work for a company called Sonics. They developed the original version of OCP specification. What happened was that Nokia and Texas Instruments saw a desperate need for a specification. A Nokia board member had written a couple of them but could get no adoption. They had only a paper version. They approached Sonics and said that we have no relationship with you but we need this specification and we need it more in the public domain so that no one controls it. We want to keep it open and keep it from fragmentation. Sonic's response was “Fine. It's a no-brainer. We don't want to …There is no money in it. Here take it.” Sonic is a user of the
spec. They develop interconnect blocks. They donated the spec. Nokia saw the specification as essential. They did a notable study and figured out that you can not design SoCs on time unless you can put these blocks together quickly and we can only do that if we have an interface spec. It is core, central. Nokia wanted to sponsor an organization and asked me to do this as did TI who probably had the world's most famous platform in OMAP. Actually OCP is a third generation OMAP. In fact a lot of DSPs are in native OCP format.

So we had a press release about a year ago. We brought on board a couple of key guys, a founding board of directors (current members are from Nokia, TI, Sonics, STMelectronics and Toshiba) and got going. Now we have or will have over 100 members.

Your own background?

Me personally? I came up thru the ranks to VP of Engineering of hardware design. I've run software and EDA groups as well. I have a lot of ACIS background. I've held several vice presidential positions at companies like National Semiconductor, VLSI Technology and EMCCR. Since then I have run several small businesses around $40M to $60M., a number of startups. With Sonics they hired me to do this job. I am no longer an employee of Sonics. I worked there for a while. People were chipping in money to OCP , Sonics chipped in me.

This position sounds a lot different from your previous positions. What are the differences and were there any challenges?

Actually, the interesting thing is that I have been VP of Sales and VP of Marketing as well as VP of Engineering. What people don't understand about standards is that they are really products. In that sense they need to be defined appropriately, productized, packaged and promoted. So it is very much a marketing job. Of course we have engineering teams working in multiple working groups and so on. They have to be effectively run. A lot of that is by having world class guys and chairs, real heavy weights. So that doesn't take a lot of direction. Mostly monitoring from a management point of view. From an administrative point of view one must make sure that they are running the meetings the way they need to: action items, follow-ups, schedules and goals. We put down our goals 3 1/2 years ago. We said we are going to do this and that on these dates and knocked them down. There is a philosophical recipe here. We always have done what I call go for the meet and greet elements. If somebody wants something, a major member or participant, and a few other people raise their hand we take a look at that and say whether it has strategic value, whether it is important and whether it is complementary to the OCP framework. People work on
it, define it, develop it, test it, document it, contort it the way we need. So it is a regular pipeline. There is Marketing in there. When the stuff comes out, we promote it, we have press releases, go to conferences and so forth.

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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.


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