IPSoC: Configurability and the rise of the IP factory

By Chris Edwards |  No Comments  |  Posted: December 4, 2012
Topics/Categories: Blog - EDA  |  Tags: , , ,  | Organizations: , , ,

Ten years ago, configurable IP was unusual enough to warrant the distinction ‘configurable’. Suppliers such as ARC, effectively now part of Synopsys following successive acquisitions, and Tensilica. Today, simply everybody is doing it. The key phrase now is “IP Factory”.

In his speech at IPSoC 2012 in Grenoble, France today, Martin Lund, senior vice president of the SoC realization group at Cadence Design Systems, said standards such as ethernet and PCI Express represent an “endless train of change”. Improvements in datarates and the production of variants that can lead to significant changes in design. One example is PCI Express over Mphy for mobile phones, which does not guarantee data delivery unlike other substrates for PCI Express.

“It’s not the case that you build it and then don’t touch it anymore. You build it and keep rebuilding it. Ethernet is, at one level, the most boring protocol out there,” said Lund, but he pointed out that options and variants are springing up for automotive and industrial networking.

“The traditional reuse model doesnt work anymore. There are constant changes that put IP reuse under pressure. The old ways don’t work anymore. The old models of an IP bazaar or an IP don’t work anymore.”

The approach that Cadence and others have taken is to adopt the IP factory approach in which versions of an IP core or a subsystem are generated based on customer requirement.

Joachim Kunkel, general manager of the solutions group at Synopsys explained at the IPSoC conference in Grenoble: “I doubt that different customers tape out the same configuration. I have doubts that one customer tapes out the same derivative twice. The question is how you go about customization to achieve that.”

Kunkel said extensive automation is needed “or otherwise you are selling bodies”.

The IP factory approach has been adopted at large SoC integrators such as STMicroelectronics, group vice president if IP sourcing and strategy Philippe Quinio explained. The company has moved to use common platform definitions that are then customized for a given product group.

“It is about understanding that we can’t afford to design all these SoCs from scratch. We have to unify the platform,” said Quinio.

Jack Browne, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sonics, said the approach is likely to scale to subsystem and platform IP: “There needs to be more configurability built in. Pragmas [code directives] that we could define to give this configurability. That way you could deliver subsystems that have a lot of scalability. You would need to ensure that you respect the superset [of the possible designs] or you will end up grafting on extensions afterwards.”

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