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Still dreaming of a plug-and-play IP

Posted: 13 Feb 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IP plug play? DesignCon Intellectual property?

Part of the problem!and the source for much of the disconnect between what users want and what suppliers can deliver! is the nature of IP blocks themselves; they are intended to be implemented in a larger design and do not work independently.

The comparison between standard components and IP blocks breaks down because while a working component can be evaluated, specified and benchmarked independently, the performance of an IP block can't adequately be measured until it is woven into a design and implemented into silicon.

Even then, according to Rajendiran, the performance of a particular block of IP can't really be measured because it is dependent upon a host of factors, including its proximity to other elements and other IP blocks.

This interdependence creates its own set of challenging questions. Chief among them is this: when a chip fails, who is at fault? Can the failure be blamed on one particular third-party IP block? Does the fault lie with the IP core itself, the way it was implemented, or, possibly, manufacturing process variability? These questions, IP vendors and users say, are often difficult, !if not impossible!to answer.

The beauty of standard parts, said Adam Traidman, a group marketing director at Cadence Design Systems Inc., is that they have specifications that give the customer an expectation that they will work. He compared it to the difference between using a Mac and a PC!when you connect a printer to a Mac, "the thing just works," whereas with a PC you may need to install drivers and could have other issues, he said.

"It is that kind of uncertainty that is the problem today in the IP industry," Traidman said. "There is still too much uncertainty around whether the IP will work."

But whether the IP works as part of a larger design!and who should be faulted in the event that it does not!is a larger issue that cannot be traced back solely to the IP supplier, Traidman said. The IP may work as intended, but it could have been implemented incorrectly by designers, or may experience problems due to variability in the manufacturing process, he added.

Traidman, who also appeared on the IP selection panel, said IP vendors need to provide some means of giving customers confidence that an IP block will work as intended. He likened the situation to what he said was a dearth in benchmark data provided by big microprocessor vendors Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD). These companies don't provide much data because they don't want to be compared to one another, Traidman said.

"Customers have to push IP vendors to provide benchmarks, otherwise they won't do it," Traidman said.

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