A roundtable of EDA experts passes comment on the impact of the increasing amounts of software that comes with IP cores in modern SoC design and that needs to be integrated.
We are getting close to the end of the series of questions about IP that I asked the industry back in June. But don't fear: I did a whole roundtable on the subject at DAC and will be bringing that to you before long.
Last week I asked about IP theft and protection. One thing that has been happening in the IP market is that the average block size has been getting larger. In the early days of reuse, blocks were fairly small, but today many IP blocks are complete subsystems carrying an extensive amount of software. I asked about the ease with which that software can be integrated. Below are the answers I received.
John Koeter, VP marketing, solutions group at Synopsys
We believe that software will continue to be an important part of providing an IP solution. Whether it is reference drivers, porting OSes, working with partners to create full solutions (for example full stacks or codecs) or providing transaction-level models, addressing the software challenges our customers face is a key value-add for us as an IP provider.
Susan Peterson, product marketing group director, and Tom Hackett, senior product marketing manager, Cadence
It's not as easy as it should be. Typically, the software that's provided are examples. There are hardware blocks and software blocks that talk to the hardware blocks via software drivers. People build upon and modify these examples.
Eran Briman, VP marketing, Ceva
At Ceva, we understand that the software is equally important to the hardware when providing processor IP. This is why we have invested significantly in our development environment, tools and software in recent years. We offer many pre-optimized software components for a range of end markets, including communications, audio, voice, imaging and vision. This software could be libraries to support LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, DTV demod, computer vision etc, and fully optimized codecs for a wide variety of audio, voice and other applications, like Dolby, DTS, AMR, WB-AMR etc. Also, we maintain a robust 3rd party ecosystem of more than 50 active partners for software, tools, manufacturing etc that complement our product offerings.
We have recently added significant efforts around the integration of our DSPs and software into processor architecture, which simplify the software development and improve the overall processor performance for target markets. Two examples of these software frameworks that we offer our customers include support for multi-core architectures (Ceva Must) and direct access to the DSP for software developers from the OS level, allowing developers to utilize the DSP to run software, offloading the CPU from these tasks.
Arvind Shanmugavel, director of applications engineering, Apache Design
One of the main advantages of using IP is the verification effort and software integration. IP is typically verified for functional accuracy by the IP provider, and also guarantees compatibility with the appropriate software. In general, SoC designers only need to worry about the higher level of integration for IP.
So, a rather disappointing set of answers on this question. I had hoped to hear about ways in which the software could be integrated or adapted for customer needs, standardized interfaces into OSs, and other help with this aspect of integration. Perhaps it is because this is targeted at the software guys that our industry is just not really interested in it. What do you think? Can we, should we, be doing a better job with software IP?