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IP lightens up

Semiconductor IP is proving one of the few glimmers of light in a gloomy high tech market.

Despite a slow start and a poor outlook in the early 1990s, the IP market has defeated its many sceptics and is enjoying significant annual growth. No longer solely the province of ambitious design oriented start ups and spin offs, IP has become an important business element for eda vendors, foundries, IDMs, fabless semiconductor companies and – more recently – fpga vendors.
Various subsets of the IP market are recording dramatic growth rates: dsp cores (21%), fixed function dsps (16%) and analogue (22.4%), for example. By far the largest segment – microprocessor cores – grew at a respectable 6.2% in 2008. In particular, there is a noticeable increase in processor IP cores being integrated into fpgas.
The methodology of reusable IP blocks was originally conceived to bridge the huge design productivity gap created as smaller process geometries exploded silicon integration and time to market target pressures increased in the portable/consumer boom. The ultimate goal is that ‘plug and play’ IP blocks can be assembled swiftly and efficiently to construct complex SoCs with increased performance and functionality.
Is it realistic? Is it easy? These were some of the questions posed at an IP Expert Panel session held at IP08, in Grenoble in December last year.

Louise Joselyn

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