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Panel debates role of IP quality

Posted: 06 Feb 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ip design? mentor graphics? agere systems? designcon? white-box verification?

A panel of IP vendor, user and distributor communities debated the question of IP quality - how it can be achieved and what it means to the industry - at DesignCon on Monday (Feb. 2, 2004). Along the way there were numerous insights into just what IP quality means, and how design teams really use third-party blocks.

Mike Kaskowitz, GM of the IP division of Mentor Graphics said a standard measure for IP quality would benefit both users - who could reduce their evaluation time and risk - and vendors - who could get paid for the additional time it takes to develop and verify quality IP. But the metric must be independent of the vendors, he added.

Bill Billowich, senior manager of IP design and reuse at Agere Systems, said Agere is seeking a list of qualified IP providers with whom no evaluation - and little or no block-level verification - would be necessary.

"The cost of IP is not significant compared to the overall costs that the project can suffer if the IP fails," he said. "Not only can an IP failure cause mask spins, but it can cause a design-in to be lost altogether."

Andy Travers, CEO of VCX Software Ltd concluded that in VCX's experience in trying to be an independent exchange for IP, "If you build it, they won't come. Only providers and users of IP marching together will be able to drive standards for IP quality," he said.

Travers emphasized that the need is real. In one recently completed 0.18?m project, Travers said, "the design team used six pieces of outside IP. Five of them worked, and one failed. The result was two re-spins, significant delays and, in the estimate of the management, a loss of about $8 million. They would have gladly spent a good fraction of that amount to have avoided the failure."

Part of the problem is the black-box nature of reusable IP, Billowich. Reusability experts have long urged engineers not to look under the hood on IP, but to use it unmodified. "If you use it as is, it's IP," Billowich said. "The moment you modify it, it's a design consulting service."

However, verification tools trusted by designers often don't work with black boxes. One definition of a quality metric, the panel suggested, might be "a metric that gives the same level of confidence on black-box IP that a white-box verification would have given."

IP indemnification is another issue. "The reality is that big vendors simply won't indemnify users of their IP," Kaskowitz said. "The risks are too unquantifiable. Small vendors will sometimes do it, but it means nothing because if they were ever called upon to pay damages resulting from an IP fault, they would be forced into bankruptcy."

One proposed solution is an independent organization to insure design projects, with rates based on the quality of third-party IP. Travers said VCX had established such a program in conjunction with a major insurance company, but so far has been met with indifference from designers. "The idea is still out there, and they are still thinking about how to get it right," he said.

- Ron Wilson

EE Times

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