Making Connections

IPextreme's "Take 5" Interview

Posted by Terry Moore
Terry Moore
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on Friday, 10 October 2014 in Business

Warren Savage of IPextreme recently interviewed me for an segment of his "Take 5 with Warren" series.

I think I made three important points.

First, once it's possible to buy an IP block, or system software, from an external vendor, that techology almost by definition is no longer core technology, but is mission critical. 

Aside: I hear someone asking, "Why?"  My answer: if a competitor can buy that technology, so possession of the technology (by itself) no longer differentiates one product from a competitor's. Anything that is not differentiating is therefore (almost certainly) not core technology. 

Another aside: I hear someone else asking "core? mission-critical?"  Gordon Moore popularized this terminology in Crossing the Chasm. My example comes from digital cameras:  lens and imager are core technology (and are a basis of competition between vendors); USB is mission critical (everyone has it, but nobody competes on that basis).

Yet another aside: "what's an IP block?" An IP block is essentially a hardware component that performs a specific function, and is packaged to be bought by a chip maker and incorporated into a chip. Warren's company, IPextreme, specializes in IP blocks, and also in design for reuse. MCCI does a very similar thing, except that our blocks are pure software, and instead of being incorporated into the chip, are incorporated into the software that accompanies the chip.

Second, modern IP blocks (USB hardware blocks, for example) must be accompanied by specialized system software in order to actually perform the desired function. In order to reduce hardware complexity and increase flexibility, higher-level functions are delegated to system software. Much of this system software (like a TCP stack or a USB stack) only performs housekeeping operations; but without the housekeeping, nothing works. T

Third, and a consequence of my previous point: IP providers, embedded system software makers, and SoC IP users, and the software team that's supporting the SoC deployments need to cooperate closely. Our timescales differ a lot -- IP providers typically develop their code a year before the chip design starts. Then there's a need for system software for verification of the SoC design. Later, when the chip is ready, there's a need for cooperation between the various groups for problem resolution. At that point, if the IP providers and the embedded software company (like MCCI) have already been working together, we can do a much better job of helping resolve problems.

Many thanks to Warren for the interview and the interest!

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