The concept seems simple: The more ip blocks you re-use in an IC or system design, the faster and more productively you’ll get your design done. The ITRS roadmap began identifying the benefits as long ago as 1997, showing the industry could reasonably expect 56,000 gates per designer per year when using large ip blocks (75,000-1 million gates). By 2007 that figure was up to 600,000 gates per designer per year, a tenfold increase.
There’s no doubt design reuse is here to stay. In 2007, a third of all logic was reused design blocks. That’s expected to rise to nearly 50 percent by 2015, according to the ITRS.
The numbers and the theory behind it are encouraging, but reality is much different. Making 30 percent of your design from reused IP blocks doesn’t mean you’re going to be 30 percent more productive at the end of the project. That’s because IC design teams tend to underestimate the work needed to implement the reused IP. This can cause project delays and missed market opportunities.
The challenge is that it’s very difficult to estimate design complexity, especially the impact of reuse. IC design schedules can falter because of the inability to estimate the impact of IP modifications on project effort.
Even a small percentage of reuse can add outsized effort to a development project. For example, if you add one new block of 600,000 gates to a 6 million-gate design, you’re adding 10 percent to the IC but increasing the effort required on the project by 24 percent. Adding 10 percent new circuitry to all blocks in that 6 million-gate design—with 90 percent of each block being re-used—doubles the effort required on the project, even though it increases the IC size by just 10 percent to 6.6 million gates.
This issue will be part of a larger discussion Dec. 1 at IP-ESC 2009 in Grenoble. We were invited to sit on a panel—“IP Reuse vs. IP Leverage: What’s the difference, and what are the issues?”—with Kathryn Kranen, CEO of Jasper Design Automation, and Olivier Haller, who manages the design verification team in the Functional Verification Group at STMicroelectronics. Our director of professional services, Andrea Fortunato, will represent Numetrics.
This is a well-timed panel in my opinion because re-use is an issue that transcends the industry and is crucial for its future. And how we go about optimizing design re-use is crucial to manage today.