| An analog and mixed-signal IP company needs to excel using its creative resources, so it must leverage core skills to produce a growing product portfolio. But with customer evaluations becoming increasingly complex, it is just as necessary to leverage scarce resources in supporting customer evaluations. |
Chipidea started with an initial base of high-performance converter technology, then expanded into complete analog front ends and mixed-signal systems, and recently into CMOS RF. Creating reliable, transferable IP in such technologies takes years of knowledge, hundreds of years of man-effort and a solid understanding of complete systems. But also, vitally, it requires an error-proof approach in design practices and in customer interface and support. And in today's market, the quality of that approach must be demonstrable.
For design, a complete methodology and flow, ISO-certified using a top-down approach, is a must. It is vital to deploy extensive behavioral modeling and full-chip transistor-level simulations and have design steps broken down for added quality control. Chipidea then deploys proprietary data-mining tools and methodologies for result analysis, design tuning and full corner coverage, leveraging automation to improve IP robustness.
Customer interface and support is also important. For example, a "standardized" USB 2.0 OTG PHY that may be certified and fully validated will be available in multiple technologies from 0.18 micron down to 90 nanometers, in several foundries, covering different flavors (generic, low power, etc.). Although similar in functionality, each database will have different implementations. A customer will require silicon characterization results, certification reports, demo-boards with test chips for the particular process option, reviews and a very reliable support service. The successful IP vendor must be able to show prospects that such a wide range of instances lies within their support capabilities.
An IP company can run lean by leaving out such depth of technology and support. And if prospects do not evaluate their vendors thoroughly, such a company may have short-term success, while harming the image of IP vendors in general. So detailed, in-depth and uniform customer evaluations are to the companies' advantage.
A simple but effective tool like the QIP rating from VSIA will force IP providers to adopt quality procedures, raising market quality and making it easier to evaluate similar cores for the same IP functionality in different processes and flavors. To succeed, one must take all strategies to improve quality and interface. That's why we now rely on the mixed-signal QIP metric from VSIA.
With 150 tapeouts last year and a first-time-right record of more than 90 percent, we believe we can be proud of our methodology.
Carlos A. Leme (firstname.lastname@example.org), chief technical officer at Chipidea (Lisbon, Portugal)