May 16, 2022

What Is IP Core? Best Practices for Managing Semiconductor IP

IP Lifecycle Management

In today’s competitive environment, chip development cycles are compressed, causing design teams to reuse semiconductor IP to get ahead.

But what is semiconductor IP? Learn about IP cores — including soft IP and hard IP — and get best practices to help accelerate development.

What Is IP Core?

An IP core consists of a block of logic or data that is used in a semiconductor chip. It is usually the intellectual property of a particular person or company. IP cores are used when making a field programmable gate array (FPGA) or application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC).

IP cores are created throughout the design process and can be turned into components for reuse. 3rd party IPs can also be purchased and implemented into designs. There are different categories for IP cores including hard IP cores and soft IP cores.

What Is a Soft IP Core?

Soft IPs are generally offered as synthesizable RTL models. These are developed in a hardware description language such as SystemVerilog, VHDL, or occasionally are provided synthesized with a gate level netlist. The advantage of a soft IP core is that those can be customized during the physical design phase and mapped to any process technology.

What is a Hard IP Core?

A hard IP core is one that has the logic implementation and the physical implementation. In other words, the physical layout of a hard macro-IP is finished and fixed in a particular process technology.

Challenges Managing IP Cores

To get the most out of semiconductor IP, it is important to manage it properly. But for many organizations, this is a complicated process.

Limited Visibility

After an IP core is created and used in a design, where does it go? For many organizations, it can end up archived on a server somewhere. To access the IP core for IP reuse, teams need to rely on the knowledge of their peers and spend time investigating the current state and often how it evolved to that state.

To incorporate an IP core into project correctly, teams first need to be able to find it. With limited visibility across teams and projects, it is almost impossible to know what is available.

Complex Context

Understanding an IP core involves understanding its current state and context. Which other projects have used it? What bugs have been discovered throughout the development process? As companies move away from a project-centric approach and towards an IP-centric approach, it is important to understand the full context of an IP core. This helps teams spend less time searching or simply building from scratch.

What if… Everything Could be Managed Like IP?

Talking about IP as a narrow subset of components in your design has the potential to limit reuse. That’s because more goes into a chip outside of just soft IP or hard IP.

Methodics IPLM is the first tool of its kind to manage your IP inside your design workflow, and across your enterprise. Because in Methodics IPLM, anything can be an IP! You can set up your system to include the following as IP:

  • Engineering environment/configurations
  • Design (WIP) IP
  • PDKs & libraries
  • Usage tracking
  • Extensions
  • Release management
  • Integrations
  • IP generators
  • And more!

Allowing everything be versioned as IP means that you have a metadata trail that is traceable across every component in your products’ IP lifecycle. You can use labels to indicated vendor IPs, specific compliance standards, and more to make it easier to incorporate it into other projects. When it comes to managing permissions and setting up events, Methodics IPLM can protect down to the individual IP level. You can also create permissions to restrict access and events so that you are notified when an IP changes.

Start Your IP Core Journey

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Centralized Bill of Materials for Semiconductor IP

Having a central platform for semiconductor IP management, independent of your data management tool, provides complete traceability and enhanced visibility into how an IP is used. It creates an IP ecosystem that can be used for discovery and reuse. It can also be used to plan and then execute your IP Bill of Materials.

That is because in Methodics IPLM there is:

  • Component & IP BoM (CIPB) Planning Module that works with your ERM and manufacturing focused PLM tool to provide high level data on IP that matches your requirements. It enables hierarchical planning on all IPs, 3rd party and internal, that can be used across an organization.
  • Component & IP BoM (CIPB) gives you a holistic view of your software and hardware IP. This helps teams deliver a single, unified BoM to manufacturing.

Together, these help you maintain consistency throughout your semiconductor IP design process.

Improve Semiconductor IP Management

Take your IP cores to the next level. With Methodics IPLM by Perforce, you can qualify an IP core for inclusion knowing that it has been properly vetted and verified. It can create an IP library for your teams and implement a flexible workflow that promotes innovation while keeping everything secure.

Methodics IPLM is trusted by 9 of the 10 top semiconductor companies to help ensure that design teams are able to efficient, while maintaining full traceability and IP security while managing IP — no matter the source.

Connect with one of our IP experts to learn how Perforce can help you improve semiconductor IP management and streamline your design process. You can get answers to your questions and gain access to evaluation resources to see how Methodics IPLM can benefit your business.

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