|The NVM Insider, Issue 4|
|Page 2 - Executive Opinion|
|Page 3 - Outside Thoughts|
|Page 4 - NVM on the Mind|
A great deal is written about vendor consolidation in the semiconductor industry. However, this remains an elusive goal when it comes to IP. As system integration drives ever more complex devices, so does the appetite for a broad range of IP that no single vendor can possibly provide.
IP is not like EDA, which is essentially a design translation business. RTL to gates, gates to placed gates, placed gates to GDSII, and so on. In EDA, differentiation is all about how well your design translation software works. No, IP is different. We are in the content business. Today’s SoC devices need a lot of content, which explains why there are more than a hundred IP companies in existence.
There are areas where customers should strive to find a single vendor. For example, USB is an example of an interface where it makes sense to buy the entire subsystem from a single vendor who can insure that the integration of the digital controller, PHY, and verification IP all work together seamlessly as a single subsystem.
However, there are applications where the opposite is true, where there is value to the device to have a subsystem composed of IP from several suppliers to create a unique and differentiated device. In the following example, we show an HDMI solution where the controller is provided by one supplier, the key management system is provided by another, and the key storage by a non-volatile memory provider such as Sidense.
Such systems deal with data that has heavy digital rights management (DRM) and brings with it significant legal liabilities for the semiconductor company. If the keys are compromised, the semiconductor company could be held liable for quite large damages. A common solution to this problem is to divide the subsystem into separate elements that are procured from different suppliers and are then integrated by the chip designer to form a unique architecture. The unique architecture ensures that there is no single point of failure (e.g., the IP supplier) associated with security.
There are many examples of such inter-company collaborations in the IP industry and we are also starting to see it spread to the business side. Earlier this year, IPextreme launched the Constellations™ program along with a number of other IP companies, including Sidense. Constellations is a network of companies that work together introducing customers to complimentary IP within the network.
Such collaborations at the technical and business level are essential to the next era of the semiconductor industry where no single company can do it all. Our success as IP companies will largely depend on how well we work with each other.