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Recently, it was D&R's IP-SoC Silicon Valley 2022. The opening keynote was given by Gabrièle Saucier, the CEO of D&R. It was also the 25th anniversary of D&R.
But I met Gabrièle years before that. In December 1986, I relocated to France to open VLSI's European R&D center in Sophia-Antipolis, on the French Riviera. There were various challenges in getting up and running since the electricity was not connected, and the phones were not connected either. Sun had not delivered the workstations yet, and we needed to install an Ethernet cable (back in the era when it was a half-inch thick coax cable). So the entire R&D team decided to go and visit Gabrièle in Grenoble, where she was a professor at INPG (now it is called Grenoble INP). When I say the entire R&D team, what that actually meant was Jacques-Olivier Piednoir and me (these days, Jacques-Olivier is the VP of European R&D at Cadence, still in Sophia-Antipolis).
In summer, the fun way to go to Grenoble is to drive through the Alps, but in winter that is not possible. We flew to Lyon airport. In those days, it was still called Lyon Satelas. Now it is called Lyon Saint Exupéry. Yes, the guy who wrote Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), who was also a pilot in the Free French Air Force. It was a freezing cold day. The autoroute from the airport to Grenoble goes over some high mountain passes, and the temperature was way below freezing. I remember it being difficult to drive since fog kept freezing on the windscreen, and so we had to keep stopping to spray it with aerosol antifreeze.
Anyway, I met Gabrièle for the first time. I think we interviewed a couple of her master's students. I know we would go on to hire several in the years to come. Grenoble is the heart of the French electronics industry, where ST Microelectronics is effectively headquartered (technically its HQ is up the road in Geneva).
Anyway, 36 years later, I met her again at the event and took the photo at the top of this post.
She gave the opening keynote on the history of IP in general and D&R's contribution in particular.
She dates IP as starting around 1990 with Arm and Rambus. Compass was spun out of VLSI Technology in 1991 and we entered the IP business (although it was just called the library business then) with gate-array and standard-cell libraries, along with memory compilers. There was already a growing trend of "design reuse" within companies, creating blocks of what we now call IP and using them in many projects. It was a natural step for 3rd party libraries to be considered. Basically, a "make versus buy" decision. Later, it would be a simpler decision since "make" was no longer feasible. Either because it would be too expensive without amortizing the cost across a large number of companies or because it required specialized rare expertise, such as for DDR controllers.
D&R was founded 25 years ago in 1997 to provide a marketplace (I suspect we were still calling it a "portal" in that era) for IP. There were two attempts to standardize how IP was delivered, the Spirit Consortium (The Structure for Packaging, Integrating and Re-using IP within Tool-flows), which is now part of Accellera. It developed the IP Xact standards in 2004. Another effort at the time was VCX in Scotland, driven by Cadence, which attempted unsuccessfully to create standard eCommerce legal documents and a regulated trading exchange. My experience at Compass was that often the engineering group was desperate for IP, often requiring us to develop it, but of the (say) six-week schedule the lawyers from the customer company would take up four of them because they wouldn't accept our contract unaltered. It was frustrating for everyone (except, maybe, the lawyers). The reason Cadence got involved was that we had a design services business, which would go on to be called Tality before being closed down in the technology downturn in the early 2000s.
The IP business settled down with multiple players:
D&R had 203 active partners, originally starting with European suppliers since D&R was based in France, but later with a large segment from the US as the fabless revolution really took hold. Some of the companies grew through acquisition to achieve scale. Indeed, Cadence entered the IP business with the acquisition of Denali, Tensilica, and some smaller companies. One point that Gabrièle made was that mergers in the semiconductor industry tended to push out some engineers, and they would sometimes form new IP companies. She calls them "ejected engineers."
D&R is still growing. The above chart shows the new IP partners who joined in just the last year from a wide range of different industries.
D&R gets 75,000 visitors a month who look at 220,000 pages. It is pretty balanced between different parts of the world, as you can see from the pie chart above:
Gabrièle wrapped up with a few conclusions:
D&R's mission is:
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