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DAC tackles the rise of IP subsystems

Posted: 11 Jun 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DAC? SoC design? IP subsystems?

Executives on a Design Automation Conference panel believe that intellectual property (IP) reuse in SoC design is increasing, thus creating challenges in compatibility and complexity.

To maximize this complexity, the semiconductor industry will increasingly turn to IP subsystems, the panelists said. IP subsystems have larger chunks of IP that have been stitched together from smaller blocks and pre-verified to ensure performance.

Naveed Sherwani, president and CEO of chip design and manufacturing services provider Open-Silicon Inc., said he was happy to see that IP reuse was finally occurring on a large scale, but said the trend is creating challenges. Open-Silicon recently completed a SoC for a customer in which 60 percent of the silicon real estate was taken up by IP, including more than 100 different blocks from 16 different vendors, Sherwani said. He predicted that within two to three years some SoCs would be comprised of more than 80 percent reused IP.

DAC panel

DAC panelists (L-R): John Koeter of Synopsys, Kevin Meyer of Globalfoundries and Naveed Sherwani of Open-Silicon. Moderator Ron Wilson (far right) is editor-in-chief at Altera.

"We should move away from just IPs to the direction of IP subsystems," Sherwani sad. "That is a very exciting area that I think you will see mature in the next two to three years."

John Koeter, vice president of marketing for Synopsys Inc.'s Solutions group, noted that Synopsys earlier this year introduced its first IP subsystem, the DesignWare SoundWave Audio Subsystem. The product, rolled out in March, includes pre-verified hardware and software to reduce design and integration effort, decrease design risk and accelerate time-to-market, according to Synopsys. Koeter said the subsystem includes configurable processing cores and interfaces and comes with more than 500,000 lines of software ported on top of it.

"I think this is really what the future of IP is," Koeter said.

Kevin Meyer, vice president of design enablement strategy and alliances at Globalfoundries Inc., said his firm has been working together with its partners in the Common Platform Alliance for more than four years to explore the concept of IP subsystems. "We do see the value of how that can get customers more quickly into a manufacturing relationship with us," Meyer said.

But Meyer said the concept could work only if aggregation of the subsystems is much more optimized than it is currently. The creation of the subsystems also needs to be done in close collaboration with key partners, he said.

Momentum for IP subsystems has been growing for the past couple of years. In 2010, Rich Wawrzyniak, an analyst with Semico Research Corp., authored a report on the emergence of IP subsystems in 2010. Wawrzyniak concluded that if subsystems are well thought out, implemented correctly by suppliers and embraced by users, tangible gains could be made in design productivity, device performance and system-level performance, while also mitigating design costs to some degree.

Sherwani wants automated IP marektplace
The idea of IP subsystem is inherently attractive, but in practice faces challenges, not the least of which is that verifying whether an IP block will function properly in a design can be highly dependent on the specific implementation. Several prominent people in the chip design community believe the concept is ultimately not practical.

Jack Harding, president and CEO of eSilicon Corp.a competitor to Open-Siliconsaid in an interview following the panel discussion that the concept has always been appealing at face value. But Harding said a logical extension of the argument for IP subsystems is for vertically integrated chip suppliers, while history has shown the industry moving in the opposite direction over the past 20 years. Chip suppliersespecially fabless SoC vendors that are essentially betting the future of their company on each new designcannot afford to do designs that are not fully optimized for the target application, Harding said.

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