IP from third-party IP vendors looks to be a good option, but selecting
and integrating that IP is rapidly becoming one of the biggest
challenges in the SoC/ASIC industry. The success of any design depends
on the careful selection of a reliable IP which sufficiently meets the
product’s requirements. Today, a significant portion of
metal re-spins or redesign of chips is due to the fact that the IP is
not properly selected, it has a bug inside, or it is not properly
integrated into the design.
It is very common for IP to be procured from multiple vendors for a single design. Working
with each vendor requires careful management of technical, quality,
business and legal issues. Taking hard-IP as an example, modern SoCs
often integrate multiple high-speed serial interfaces, such as PCIe,
USB, and XAUI; memory interfaces such as DDR; CPUs such as ARM, MIPS,
and Tensilica; analog IP, including ADCs, DACs, PLLs, DLLs; and power
management blocks, next to library and commodity IP that includes
memories, I/Os, and standard cells.
Figure 1: Typical SoC components
each component in a SoC, there are specialized IP vendors with proven
track records providing the IP in the whole ecosystem. Though there are
many benefits to having multiple sources in the market, it presents
challenges for IP integration. To combat this, an IP selection and
qualification process is needed. This process needs to be exhaustive and
comprehensive while covering each phase of the ASIC design, from
specification to GDSII.
Even a small
oversight, such as realizing late in the tapeout phase that one of the
IPs uses LVt devices, when only RVt/HVt devices have been budgeted for,
can have a major impact on cost and schedule. A seemingly small mistake
made in the due-diligence stage as performed early in the ASIC
development cycle, can lead to excessive costs down the road when the
issue is encountered.
Figure 2: 3rd party IP use process
figure above shows a comprehensive 4-stage IP Selection, Procurement,
Qualification and Integration process, starting from day one when the
project is still in the specification phase. Understanding customer
requirements (or sometimes even driving them), selecting the right
vendors, the right IP, conducting IP risk assessment and mitigation, as
well as performing qualification and integration checks, are integral
parts of any project. Each of these steps is composed of various checks
and analysis in order to assure one thing: The right IP is being used in the right manner!
Each part of the 3rd
Party IP Use Process seen above is quite rigorous and requires a great
amount of effort by the IP procurement and integration team.