The IP and Vendor Selection
process is the most important step as it is the foundation for the
whole design. Taking shortcuts during this process will no doubt
increase the chance of failures at later stages. This process
encompasses matching the IP requirements as per the design needs,
finding the right vendors and making sure that the 3rd party IP serves
all the needs required for the particular design.
for the various IP being procured, both compatibility and
interoperability need to be insured. For example, in TSMC's 40G process,
multiple voltages can be supported for the I/O oxide (1.8, 2.5 and
3.3V). However, not all combinations are supported at this technology
node. The selection of different I/O libraries and PHYs needs to take
this into account to ensure compatibility of the selected IP. Another
example involves DDR PHYs and the associated controllers.
Interoperability concerns can exist, especially in cases where the DDR
and the PHY are procured from different vendors, as the standard for the
interface between them is new and may, to a large extent, still be
Figure 3: IP aggregation in a design
is the next important step after all the IP and vendors have been
finalized for a design. This process includes financial, legal, schedule
and various other contracts/agreements and negotiations with the
One other important aspect of
procuring the IP from an external vendor is the assessment of views and
models delivered by the vendor, which will be used with the existing
ASIC semi-custom/full custom design flow.
have been efforts by bodies like IP-XACT to standardize the IP.
However, due to various EDA flows and tool choices due to historical
reasons etc., an IP delivered by multiple IP vendors may not look the
same. It might require generation of some auxiliary views like IBIS
views for IOs from spice, milkyway databases, and characterization at
custom corners for analysis etc., which might not be available from an
IP vendor as a default delivery option.
is the third step, which incorporates an exhaustive incoming IP
inspection process that helps in finding any issues with the IP very
early in the project design cycle. This
approach provides lead time for the IP vendor to fix any issues upfront
that might otherwise show up in the ASIC tape-out phase of the project.
This process is required for the same reason most of these steps are in place; the later a bug or an issue involving IP is caught, the more costly fixing it becomes.
IP inspection encompasses checking the IP within
itself and with the other IPs in the ASIC. When checking the IP within
itself, it is important to perform checks related to IP compatibility
with the technology process node selected in terms of mask layers, gate
oxides, etc., with the used design flow.
the contents of IP delivery in terms of views completeness is another
area that often gets missed. An agreement with an IP vendor might only
cover basic views for the RTL to GDSII flow, but there can be a
requirement of specific views like IBIS models for IO libraries to do
Figure 4: IP qualification process
steps might come at additional time and cost. Also, there can be the
case of an IP view/model having been generated using a flow from one EDA
vendor, where it may not seamlessly work with another. Issues like
these have the potential to negatively impact the project if not
Figure 5: Relative cost of fixing IP with design cycle
is technically the last step in the chain even though it typically runs
throughout the program until the tapeout. This step is one of the areas
that is constantly evolving and when new IPs/vendors are used in a
design this process becomes more tedious. To tackle this
task, various IP checklists and integration reviews should be deployed.
These should be updated regularly to ensure all the aspects of
integration such as timing, DFT, physical design and package are
addressed for each IP. These checklists should carry a lot of know-how
from the experience of the other designs in terms of best practices and
recommendations based on the silicon performance.
are various requirements that each IP vendor provides on how to use the
IP—should these requirements not be met, successful IP integration may
be hampered. Also, as part of the process, IP vendors
should do the final reviews and make sure that it satisfies all the
requirements. One area that requires attention when managing multiple IP
vendors is the understanding of ESD compliance for the entire chip. IP
vendors will guarantee ESD targets only for their individual IPs and
will have tested ESD compliance for the IPs only in their own testchip
environment. IP integration should incorporate specific ESD reviews and
analysis for the various IPs integrated on a design to mitigate this
risk during the physical design phase of the project. Overall, with this
process, there should be significant savings for the companies in terms
of last-minute ECOs and metal re-spins by catching some of the issues
very early on in the process.
a first-time-right SoC design depends greatly on IP Selection,
Procurement, Qualification and Integration processes and methodologies.
Ensuring that the IP, as used in the SoC, will ultimately meet all
requirements is a highly complex task that requires a dedicated and
expert team with an explicit focus and responsibility to this task. At
Open-Silicon, we have a dedicated IP Application Engineering team, which
is responsible for taking care of the whole process described in this
article. Open-Silicon’s IP experts work continuously with customers and
IP vendors to make sure all the requirements are met and IPs are
successfully integrated in the design.
About the author
Gupta is an IP manager with Open-Silicon, and is responsible for
managing the IP for various networking, telecom, storage and consumer
application programs. Prior to joining Open-Silicon, Mohit led teams at
Infineon Technologies and ST Microelectronics where he was responsible
for IP circuit design, layout design, characterization and quality
assurance of IP. Mohit holds a BE Degree in EEC from Thapar University,
India and an MS degree in Microelectronics from the Birla Institute of
Science and Technology, Pilani, India. He also participated in the
Executive Program in International Business Management from Indian
Institute of Management, Calcutta, India.
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