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

Saturday Oct. 04, 2008

One on One: Jack Browne

Wrapping up the initial One-on-One is Jack Browne, VP President of Marketing at MIPS

<img src="//www.design-reuse.com/blog_img/blog55/browne.jpg" border="0" align="left" hspace="5">

Jack Browne is Vice President of Marketing for MIPS Technologies. He joined MIPS Technologies in 2001 as director of market development, drawing on more than 30 years of industry experience in sales, marketing and engineering, primarily in Motorola’s Semiconductor Products Sector, and also including Wyle Electronics and Arrow Electronics. An acknowledged industry spokesman, Mr. Browne has written more than 100 papers for industry publications and presented at more than 100 industry conferences. He holds a B.S.E.E. degree from the University of Texas.



Thanks for taking the time to contribute to this forum. As a seasoned veteran of both semiconductor and IP, you have a great perpective on this market. Let's start with the questions:

As an IP company, what is your #1 challenge you have with your customers and what are you doing about it?

We are focused on helping our customers be successful. That may sound simplistic, but it’s a huge challenge for designers to get designs right the first time. Whether they’re experienced SoC teams moving to the next process node or teams doing their first SoC, we work with them to help them successfully and quickly get their SoCs to market. This is obviously key to reaching the next development engagement. As IP providers, if we successfully get our customers to production, then our business grows over time.

A specific example of how we as an IP company are helping is through the scripts we provide for a specific processor configuration and high frequency implementation. These scripts are user-configurable to help customers differentiate. We also ensure interoperability with other companies’ products (e.g. EDA, ESL, IP) to help the customer be successful.

Putting the shoe on the other foot, what do you perceive as your customer’s # 1 challenge and what should they be doing about it?

Our customers’ biggest challenge is successfully getting their SoC designs to market on time. Anecdotally, about half of the design starts halt before tapeout of silicon and only about half of SoC tapeouts hit expectations in terms of time-to-market, volume, etc. Major factors are integration and verification at advanced process nodes of increasing amounts of functionality that is either designed in-house or purchased IP. Another huge issue is software content that is increasing about 25% per year. Software functionality at dense process nodes already represents more than 50% of the design cost. We’re seeing companies that are providing 2 million or even 15 million lines of software for enablement of their system customers to shorten time to production.

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

Such statements about the industry being “broken” are hard to defend. The high level of integration in today’s SoCs means no single company can design everything needed on time. So the third party IP business is a necessity as we get to lower nodes. Customers across the board need IP companies to help with design productivity.

Third party IP providers are part of the fabless semi supply chain, offering solutions at a fraction of the customers’ cost of doing it themselves. While there are still companies doing proprietary processor designs for their own use, they’re frequently spending several millions of dollars a year for this in-house capability and also have the responsibility of creating a software ecosystem around the architecture. This is becoming less and less appealing. For analog and mixed signal designs, we estimate that 80% of this design work is captive to semiconductor companies today. Gartner sees the Analog/Mixed Signal market as one of the highest growth opportunities for IP with a 17% CAGR thru 2012.

As the number two design IP company, we clearly see a healthy market opportunity for IP.

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

This is a vibrant and large industry of more than 140 companies where the top 10 IP providers represent 70% (or $970 million) of total industry revenues. There is still plenty of room in that equation for smaller players to see success. The barriers to entry are generally low in the IP business. Typically finding a function or custom solution that a company wants to outsource can get a company moving towards being an IP company. The challenge of course is scaling the business up to sell the same IP multiple times to different customers.

MIPS Technologies is one of the larger companies, with over 10 years as an IP provider and customers shipping millions of units—on the processor side more than 410 million units shipped in FY08, and on the analog side where we also have 10 years of experience, our customers have shipped hundreds of millions of USB devices.

Should there be more or less IP companies?

I don’t necessarily think there should be more or less IP companies. The market sorts this out, and of course the number could trend lower as we’re seeing customers wanting to do business with fewer overall vendors. They’d prefer to work with one trusted partner. The key to success for an IP company is having a clear, defensible and sustainable value proposition created by providing customers with a continuous stream of design-critical, quality IP. The problem starts for IP companies when their interest ends at the transaction, rather than partnering with their customers. Our success depends on their success, so we’re all in this together.

What role should EDA companies play in the IP market?

Like IP companies, EDA companies have similar goals. EDA tools, flows and methodologies go hand-in-hand with design IP in the SoC development process. EDA vendors and IP vendors must work together closely early in the cycle. At MIPS we work with the EDA suppliers to improve interoperability of our products with their products such that our mutual customers have a good initial experience, and are successful in taping out SoCs that hit their design targets.

What role should Service companies play in the IP market?

To the extent that a design service provider can leverage use of the IP that was developed with one customer to another, there is value above the specific outsourcing engagement. MIPS Technologies has an ongoing set of engagements with a large number of design service providers who have been successful enabling mutual customers.

There is also a potential opportunity for design services providers to partner with IP providers on design personalization. When IP needs to be customized (e.g. the number of masters and slaves in a system controller), this is not necessarily an IP company’s core competency, and there could be an opportunity for IP vendors to partner with design services companies on such development.

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

I think most IP vendors would agree that IP quality is an imperative that if ignored is more detrimental to success than any competitor. Quality products lead customers to purchase additional IP licenses and expand their range of products purchased. Of course there is a great amount of effort that goes into developing and verifying quality products. While the largest IP vendors tend to have happy customers, not all IP vendors have the economies of scale to support this resource-intensive effort, so quality can suffer for some smaller players.

The complexity of the IP and the system dependencies demand that there be a close relationship between IP providers and customers. Without that relationship, there are gaps that end up as quality issues in silicon. A focus on customer success tends to correct this. There are challenges in the design methodologies and consistency of specs, but at the end of the day making sure the customer can effectively employ the IP to ship high-volume silicon is the mission of every IP provider. If you focus on customer success and view that success as volume shipment of the SoC design, you have better alignment with customers’ goals.

Is there a need for greater standardization in IP?

There is already a large amount of standardization today. The range of IP addresses a large number of standards from foundries’ physical process standards to interface standards defined by the IEEE and industry associations. I don’t think that the mainstream designer needs more IP standards as long as the IP conforms with his/her design methodologies and is interoperable with other IP, EDA and foundries to ensure first-time-right design.

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

In general we will continue to see a large community of providers in excess of 100 companies, with the majority of the revenue concentrated in the top 10 IP providers. These broad line IP suppliers, together with the EDA companies, key semiconductor companies and associations like GSA will have raised the standard for IP business (best practices, business models, right first time successes etc.) and our customers will be much more productive than they are today.

And we will have a whole new set of challenges revolving around getting customers to market on-time with volume shipments.

Posted by Warren Savage on Saturday Oct. 04, 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.