On Cores
Meditations on the semiconductor and IP industries
By Warren Savage, CEO, IPextreme



Monday Sep. 29, 2008

One on One: Ralph Von Vignau

Next in our interview series, Ralph Von Vignau offers insights on the IP market.
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Ralph von Vignau is Senior Director in the Corporate Innovation & Technology - IP & Architecture Group within NXP Semiconductors. Von Vignau is a management team member, manager of the IP Quality and Reuse group, the Standards and Infrastructure Group and the Innovation & Technology Test Chip Program. Von Vignau is also President of The SPIRIT Consortium and is also on the OSCI Board of Directors.

The IP & Architecture group will develop and procure leading edge IP for the coming generations of technology starting with 65 nm. In his current position, von Vignau will focus strongly on the development and utilization of standards to address product quality, reuse and design efficiency.

Ralph von Vignau has a bachelor’s degree in informatics and during the last 35 years has received 15 patents, primarily in consumer systems.

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Ralph,

Thanks for meeting with me. Many people in the industry are familiar with your long association with initiatives to promote IP reuse and are keen to hear your perspectives on these questions I have been asking IP leaders. Let's start.


1. What are the biggest challenges for an IP provider?


As an IP user, NXP believes the biggest challenge IP vendors have is in providing IP with the right specifications at the right time and with the right quality. Maybe put more simply:- IP that can be dropped into a design with zero effort and works robustly. The only way this can be successfully achieved is by having industry standards and tooling in place as the enabler.


2. What is the biggest challenge for their customers?


Again being a user, NXP is a customer and at times (often) suffers the deliveries from IP providers. On the whole IP providers see their product as gems in the industry but forget that they have yet to be integrated into SoC’s. Let us put the quality aspect aside and presume IP providers will (eventually) learn how to verify their IP. We are still a long way away from Plug n’Play IP. There are a few companies looking into this (ARM) but the full scale of requirements is not addressed and many do not address it at all. Standards could alleviate the situation if they were used (e.g. IP-XACT) and proposals such as CoReUse. Alone standardized views and interfaces would be a big step forward.


3. The IP business model undergoes periodic attack from the media, do you think the IP business model is broken? Please elaborate.


Not really. Maybe there are too many small ones. Buying single IP components from providers is too much effort, especially as they all provide their IP in different ways and the quality is never perfect. Most larger IDM’s have their internal IP development and if IP providers were to work in a similar way, this could be reduced.


4. The IP market is dominated (revenue-wise) by a few large players, yet there remains hundreds of small outfits. Why is that?


The IP market place is still very immature and I believe most IP providers are surviving less on IP sales and more on engineering services.


5. Should there be more or less IP companies?


Less tiny ones and more with a portfolio.


6. What role should EDA companies play in the IP market?


EDA companies could be a great enabler in the market. We have 3 “classes”. The small companies search for niche products and some make it to the mid-range with a product that runs. If they cannot expand their product portfolio and grow, they eventually get swallowed. The “swallowers” (the big 3) unfortunately are very slow in innovation and super careful so miss the opportunities to enable (lead) big advances.


7. What role should Service companies play in the IP market?


What is a service company? It provides engineering resources to develop IP or libraries to distribute IP. The value of a service increases with the scope it provides. A large library of quality IP coupled with good support is where we need to go (e.g. IPExtreme)


8. To what extent do you think the IP industry has come to grips with its quality issues?


Not very well. One of the issues IP users have is the quality which can be very costly if faults are not found before silicon is made. Product Quality has several value points which are not well recognized by the majority of IP providers:
• The correct functionality (the major focus)
• The ease of use (integration effort)
• The maintainability (future proof, reusable, one time learn - many times use)
• The documentation
• The “beauty” (how well implemented, easy to understand, neat SW use models, effective / efficient, power rating ….)


9. Is there a need for greater standardization in IP?


Absolutely. As mentioned in several places, there are many points that ease use if standardized. Major ones effecting the integration (interfaces, addressability, adaptability, design views)


10. Ten years from now, what does the IP market look like?


A few large IP providers with functional oriented libraries backed by innovative development teams and a business model that enables both provider and user to find benefits.


Posted by Warren Savage on Monday Sep. 29, 2008 | Add a Comment




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About the Author

Warren Savage, President and CEO of IPextreme, is a well-known and published authority in the field of semiconductor intellectual property. He has a long history of pushing the envelope of design methodology from his work in fault tolerant computing at Tandem Computers in the 1980's and driving reliable design metholologies into commercial practice at Synopsys for its DesignWare IP product in the 1990s. Much of his thinking became embodied in the seminal book on IP reuse, the Reuse Methodology Manual. Warren is taking his vision to the next level with his latest company, IPextreme, which is focused on enabling broad commercialization of IP captive in large semiconductor companies.