SANTA CLARA, Calif. Developers of intellectual property (IP) cores must tend to the quality and completeness of the design files representing their cores or risk undermining customer confidence in design reuse, according to Aart de Geus, president and chief executive officer of Synopsys Inc. (Mountain View, Calif.).
De Geus made his call for quality in a keynote address to the IP99 conference and exhibition being held here, while adding a "mea culpa" regarding the early core offerings from Synopsys.
De Geus also predicted that the numerous companies that comprise the middle ground in the market for third-party IP cores, currently offering standards-based functions such as bus interfaces, will disappear.
The various complex commodity cores currently being touted by a large number of independent suppliers will either be taken into subscription libraries of basic building block functions at the low end of complexity, or provided as enab ling cores associated with proprietary "star IP" offerings, de Geus said. The middle ground, which has seen tumbling prices as competition has increased, has also been characterized by the necessity for extensive design service activity, partly because of the incompleteness of some offerings in that space, he said.
"Intense collaboration is required with today's IP reuse design flow. Code transfer alone is not enough. Somehow you must also transfer the creator's knowledge with the IP," said de Geus. But using a design service contract to do that creates a business problem, he said. "That model does not scale," de Geus said.
As a result, IP core developers should "apply attention to the mechanisms of quality," de Geus said.
To that end, de Geus laid out a five-point "meta-quality" agenda that involved: the cleverness and appropriateness of a circuit design itself; a robust design-transfer and use methodology; the need to define the "usage envelope" of a core; a complete business model, including s upport. The last item on the meta-quality agenda was expressed simply in two words, "No bugs," and de Geus underlined its significance by referring to Synopsys's own synthesis tools.
"If erroneous logic was generated by synthesis it would be the highest-level catastrophe, because all confidence in automation disappears," de Geus said. Some problems of the IP industry and a lack of confidence from the financial community are partly a result of the industry itself. "In the past the IP industry put out some poor quality IP and we were one of the guilty parties," he said.
While acknowledging that the fledging IP industry is still searching to find and put in place all the necessary elements for sustained business success, de Geus expressed confidence in its long-term future. "There is a huge opportunity for IP. The design flow is changing radically," he said.