Over the past several years, Cadence has become a major provider of semiconductor design IP and the leading supplier of verification IP (VIP). This progress has taken place under the watchful eye of Martin Lund, senior vice president of the IP Group at Cadence. Lund joined Cadence in early 2012, and has built a robust IP portfolio both from internal R&D and the acquisitions of Denali, Cosmic Circuits, Evatronix, and Tensilica.
In this interview Lund talks about Cadence achievements in IP, the growth of the third-party IP market, IP customization, quality, and a comprehensive new IP website that Cadence has opened at ip.cadence.com.
Q: Cadence has been actively pursuing an IP strategy for several years now. What has been achieved during this period and what has been learned?
A: We have been growing our portfolio very significantly. We now have a comprehensive [design] IP portfolio for standard interfaces and a very strong VIP portfolio. We have specialty processors from Tensilica that provide innovation platforms. We are seeing that our strategy is playing out. What we have learned is that we are on the right track and we are serving a very important need as an ecosystem player.
The third-party IP business is becoming a game for big players. 28nm development is expensive, and FinFET development is expensive. Complexity and expense make it harder for small players to continue to be part of the market. At the same time, customers are seeing pressure on their R&D budgets, and they are increasingly making more rational decisions around "make versus buy." In the past, when IP didn't cost so much, they could just make it. Now they are saying, "Why are we making this if it doesn't differentiate our product?"
I think FinFETs are going to be a major tipping point for third-party IP. That's where people are saying, "Wow, this is really hard."
Q: Any surprises along the way?
A: I'm surprised at how fast people are saying, "Yes, we have to find a way to leverage third-party IP." This is from even the most die-hard, not-invented-here companies in the world. And this is the time when it really matters, because you have a lot of process node complexities. There are thousands of design rules, perhaps 150 timing corners to sign off—it's complicated work, and you can't justify dragging your engineering team through all that complexity when it really doesn't buy you anything.
Q: What sets Cadence apart from its IP competitors?
A: We have very strong analog/mixed-signal tools, and we have very strong analog/mixed-signal design teams. Of course we have our VIP and we have verification expertise that is very significant. We have Tensilica, which is an innovation platform that allows people to build very differentiated solutions. But our biggest competitive advantage probably comes from our systems understanding—we don't stop at the edge of the silicon.
Q: You've talked in the past about the IP Factory, which is an automated way of delivering customized IP. Are we progressing in that direction?
A: Yes, we can do customization today. But the IP Factory is under construction and it will be under construction for a long time, because it's also a mindset. The notion is that we automate all of the pieces that should be automated, and then we leverage that automation to give customers much more optimization and faster time-to-market.
Tensilica is the ultimate version of the IP Factory, where customers generate their own custom solutions. We now have 15 years of experience with that.
Q: The new Cadence IP website at ip.cadence.com has a tremendous amount of content—the IP portfolio itself, educational resources, blogs, customer success stories, and more. Why is Cadence launching this site and what do you hope it will accomplish?
A: We are launching it by popular demand. We're trying to make it much easier for customers to find and get access to our growing portfolio, and we wanted to have a place that is fully focused on IP and VIP. That's because, in many cases, people who are looking for IP are not also looking for tools. The site makes it much easier for people to find information. The portfolio is there, and we have a large amount of educational content.
Q: The new website talks about IP quality, and that's a key concern for customers. What is Cadence doing to ensure IP quality?
A: Quality has to be designed in. We are striving to be error free, and this is not optional. You can't tape out chips and issue a software upgrade later. If you have a chip with a billion transistors, and one of them is hooked up incorrectly, the chip doesn't work.
Quality has given chip development a very different level of meaning. To ensure quality, we are using the most advanced verification methodologies. Cadence is a leader in advanced verification methodologies and we're using Cadence simulation, acceleration, emulation, and formal verification tools. We do test chips for all of our hard IP, and we verify and characterize them to make sure they operate under all conditions.
I think quality is always a journey. You have to keep striving for perfection and fighting the complexity. I think we're making some good strides in terms of making merchant IP a quality experience that is as good or better as our customers could do on their own.
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