Monthly Archives: July 2014

relationship

Choosing IP core – It’s not just the product, it’s the relationship

This is a guest post by PLDA which designs and sells intellectual property (IP) cores and prototyping tools for ASIC and FPGA


You are on a very strict schedule for your next chip. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, you plan to go to an outside vendor for some of your silicon IP core. Your decision is – do I get my IP core from a large supplier who offers many cores covering a broad range of functionality (the supermarket) or do I go to a focused vendor who specializes in the critical piece of IP core I need (the specialty shop)? Well, it depends on the IP core.

Decision Time

When you need a particular piece of third-party IP, the factors that go into the “where to purchase” decision include the “hard” attributes of IP functionality, availability for a particular process node, performance, complexity, ease of implementation, testability, and security. Along with these attributes are others that apply specifically to vendor selection, such as track record as an IP supplier and level of service. The latter is particularly important if problems arise during IP integration. An IP supplier who has been in the business for several years and is profitable demonstrates that they are “in for the long haul” and will still be around down the road if problems develop or to help with tricky IP integration technical problems on future chips.

A small IP vendor may be your best choice if you need a specialized IP core. Since a small vendor has fewer products than a large vendor, they often are more willing to work with you to make sure their product works in your particular chip. In other words, small vendors generally provide better support and extra service to their customers. Treat your IP vendor as a member of your design team to help solve any and all problems relating to the IP from that supplier and go with one willing to accept this role.

IP Vendor Knowledge

A real test of an IP vendor’s value is what happens when you implement IP and it doesn’t work correctly. A vendor’s knowledge needs to extend beyond the actual IP that they sell, including knowledge of the various types of systems in which the IP may be embedded. Look for a vendor who has experience with several types of designs using a particular piece of IP.

An important factor beyond the particular core you want is how involved the vendor is with similar IP. For example, if you need PCI Express (PCIe) IP does the vendor also have PCI and PCI-X experience and knowledge? Experience with similar functionality in other cores indicates that the IP vendor most likely has extensive familiarity with the core functionality you need.

Parameterizable IP is another plus, allowing you to customize one core for a basic design and variations of the same IP for derivative products. As is the case with any semiconductor product, find out what else the vendor can supply beyond the basic IP. If the vendor has versions of a particular core for different silicon platforms – ASIC, FPGA and maybe even Structured ASIC – this gives you flexibility during product development (maybe on an FPGA) and then for transitioning to an ASIC for cost advantages. If your critical need is for IP to implement a communication standard, such as PCIe, then your vendor should offer IP verification with common verification IP (VIP) that you might employ, such as that offered by nSys, along with verification reports. Depending on the IP, the vendor should also have the appropriate software you’ll need to implement the IP in a system.

Reference designs from the IP vendor, particularly when you are targeting an FPGA platform for design validation or prototyping, will save you a lot of design time. A small, experienced IP vendor will generally be a good choice because they have the design experience to develop such boards with high performance characteristics and ease of use.

The bottom line is to look beyond the IP itself and see what else the vendor has to make system implementation and verification as painless as possible. IP integration is not turnkey for high-performance, critical IP – and it never will be since every chip in which the IP will reside represents a different system around it. A small, focused IP vendor is your best bet to get the core, associated hardware and software, and service you need to maximize successful IP integration.

Visit PLDA’s website for more information.

 

.

custome design

The Case for Developing Custom Analog

This is a guest post by S3 Group that provides design, verification and implementation of the most complex IC solutions.


Increasingly, product managers are considering a custom Analog SoC as an effective way to drastically reduce BOM costs. What would have been considered a radical product innovation just a few years ago, is now viewed as a viable route as even where product volumes are considered low NRE costs can in fact be recovered in short period of time.  Innovative SoC solutions are challenging but the benefits are compelling where risk can be mitigated by choosing a development partner with a clear understanding of all the system components and of the various technology options for the SoC implementation. In a recently issued paper, S3 Group’s experts talk about the advantages of custom SoCs and build a strong business case for investment in a SoC development.

 

Click here to read the white paper:

 

White Paper: The Case for Developing Custom Analog

 

.

calculate

Does an externally bought IP need re-verification?

This is a guest post by Arrow Devices, that provides high-quality Design & Verification products and services for ASIC/SOC. 


Verification is a never ending process! You can never be sure that you have verified everything. The aim of verification is risk reduction to the level of practical perfection.

The increase in chip complexity coupled with pressure to shorten time to market, are pushing chip design companies towards adoption of third party IPs. Let us consider you have weighed in all pros and cons of IP outsourcing and decided have to go for a third party IP for your next project. Then the question is – Does the externally bought IP need re-verification?

Let us answer this question by first examining the reasons that third party vendors may give you to persuade you not to go for re-verification:

 

Third Party Vendors’ arguments against re-verification

Argument 1: “The IP is FPGA proven”

Flaw: FPGA proven IP may be a limited version of the IP you require. Or worse, it could be a modified version of the IP, to fit into the constraints of the FPGA. Now this is serious concern. Only basic features might be operational at lower clock speeds.

Argument 2: “The IP is Silicon proven”

Flaw: Even if some IP vendors do create the silicon, it may not have seen much real world application. It might be operational at-speed with the full IP but in an incubated environment. This incubated environment might be creating very limited cases – a cause to worry about.

Argument 3: “The IP is silicon proven and in production”

Flaw: Lets say that this IP is silicon proven and is already being used in the production application. Still you might want to check if the nature of application is similar to the one where you plan to use the IP. Your application can lead to different scenarios that the IP is not exposed to. These newer scenarios need additional verification.

Argument 4: “The IP needs very little customization”

Flaw: Lets say you found that elusive IP that is production silicon proven at multiple applications similar to yours. But you may need to customize it slightly to fit your requirements. This too will increase your risk. The change could be as simple as RAM types used in the FIFOs of the design. But still, you are opening your chip to new potential bugs.

 

But doesn’t re-verification add to development time?

You might say that the reason for going for an external IP is to shorten the product cycle. Therefore, if you need to re-verify the IP again it will be counter-productive.  This indeed could be true if you buy a half baked verification solution. However, it won’t be true if you get a solution that you can just plug-n-play  – one that does not require much effort to integrate and execute. Where can you find such a solution? You can start here with us! Our solutions are not just BFMs, but full verification solutions.  Right from test plan, coverage plan and assertion plans to full test suites containing both compliance and constrained random. They also come bundled with the coverage and scoreboard. Within a week you will be able to integrate your IP with the solution – and start running full test suites and analyzing coverage.  That’s how quick you can get the confidence you need.

 

Is re-verification worth all the trouble? How much risk are you really avoiding?

  • Your brand is on the line: Ultimately your customers will look at the product with your brand name on it and not with the IP vendor’s. So you need to do whatever it takes to ensure it’s quality.
  • Vendors’ primary focus in not IP verification: The IP vendor is in the business of selling the IPs and verification might not be their primary focus. Hence the test bench and test suites bundled may not be compliant with the latest verification standards. If you do plan to maintain and build it further it might makes sense to have the best test bench that can scale and last longer.
  • Need to meet your own quality standards: Re-verifying the IP will give you the confidence you need to meet your quality standards. It will enable you to exercise the DUT sufficiently in the areas of your interest.
  • Need to future proof your product: Re-verifying will ensure that in future if there are any issues found, you will have environment to recreate and regress.

So whats the verdict?

If and only if you are buying an IP that is production silicon proven at multiple applications similar to yours and you are integrating it as it is without any customization – then you may not need re-verification.  This however, is an ideal scenario and will most likely not happen in reality.

Hence it makes sense to have IP re-verified – no matter what your situation.

 

To read more from Arrow Devices, please visit their blog.