About ten years ago, the semiconductor intellectual property (IP) was just getting underway. Although ARM and MIPS had carved out decent businesses for themselves selling processor cores by that time - ARM floated in April 1998 and was riding high courtesy of the Internet stock boom - there were still serious doubts over the viability of the IP business model. Ten years on, there still are.
At the recent IP-ESC conference in Grenoble, some old favourites from the early days came back with a vengeance, such as the perennial favourite, IP quality. The system-on-chip (SoC) industry has, on the one hand, dealt reasonably well with the quality issue. And IP is now a core part of SoC design. It's hard to think of any SoC on the market that does not incorporate a hardware block bought from somewhere else.
STMicrolectronics has even formed its own internal IP suppliers. "We separated the SoC team from the IP team," said Francois Remond of ST, primarily to make the IP more robust. A danger with reusing blocks that were never designed for the purpose is that shortcuts taken on the original project don't show until too late on subsequent designs.
"We had recently the experience of transforming an adult RTL block [developed internally] into IP. It has a high cost," said Remond. "It is better to start with reuse in mind."