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Two sides of the coin: IP vs EDA

Posted: 20 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IP? EDA? Arteris? Imagination Technology?

In the world of semiconductors and design, a clear-cut definition of technologies is imperative. Missing out on this crucial aspect and having to settle for 'subjective' operative characterisation of technologies may not be enough, and at times could lead to unintended and damaging consequences.

I overheard a conversation comparing the semiconductor IP business with the EDA business. At one point, they decided that "IP is EDA" because of the synergies between the two. While there are similarities, I beg to differ.

During a recent business trip, I overheard a conversation comparing the semiconductor intellectual property (IP) business with the electronic design automation (EDA) business. At one point, the people talking decided that "IP is EDA" because of the many synergies between the two. While there are some similarities, they are fundamentally different businesses and technologies. As someone who has spent 10 years in both businesses, I have learned this from first-hand experience.

How I learned

As a co-founder of Cadence Design Systems (on the SDA side) and former president of HLD Systems, I spent more than 11 years in EDA with stints in general management, marketing, finance and sales. In my current role at Arteris, I directed the development of a network-on-chip IP company for nearly 10 years. Both of these experiences have allowed me to see the differences between the two, and I made several adjustments going from one industry to the other.

Back in 2007 I had a conversation with Hossein Yassaie, who is the CEO of Imagination Technology. He asked me to describe the Arteris IP and when I told him, he replied, "This is a great idea, but it will take you 10 years to build this into a business."

At the time, I was convinced we could do it much faster.

In reality: The company started in 2003, shipped its first products in 2006, achieved profitability in 2010 and became the market leader by 2013.

It turns out that it does take 10 years to build an IP company.

Differences between IP and EDA

The fundamental difference is that EDA tools help companies to design a chip, while IP is in the chip. In fact, most of today's SoCs are assembled from internally and externally sourced IP. The IP is the chip.

This distinction makes the biggest difference. You can compare it to the difference between the software development tools market and the market for apps running on a device: They are related but very different.

Here are more differences:

Product adoption: An IP company not only has to build a product, but it also needs to get it designed into an SoC. Then the SoC has to get designed into a system and the system has to achieve volume production. Conversely, you can build and deploy an EDA tool in three to four years because EDA products do not have to be proven in working silicon to be successful.

Role of tools: Major EDA companies now provide IP and the major IP vendors supply tools, but that does not make them equivalent. Arteris ships tools with its interconnect IP but they only work with our IP. Even ARM, the world's most successful IP provider, offers software tools whose sole objective is to enhance the value of its own IP.

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