Navraj Nandra, Director of Marketing for Analog and Mixed-Signal IP at Synopsys, presents a viewpoint here regarding analog IP that differs somewhat from the view expressed by Magma CEO Rajeev Madhavan in the original April 23rd Mocha Mystery Series posting on the topic.
By the way, Nandra has his own blog on the Synopsys website:
Q – Is there such a thing as analog IP?
Navraj Nandra – Yes. The term IP is defined as "build once and license many times", while the term Analog is applied to a whole host of circuits. Putting the two ideas together means you have to decide which analog circuits support the IP definition.
Physical layer interfaces for USB and PCI Express are analog circuits; these are easy to consider as IP, because their specifications are standardized through electrical working groups.
Data converters, complete analog front-ends such as video, or audio CODECs can also be considered as analog IP - although there are currently no steering groups standardizing these specifications. However, the specifications are pretty much fixed for these circuits.
Q – If there's been analog IP for so long, why isn't everyone convinced?
Navraj Nandra – There are a couple of reasons.
1) No standard electrical specifications exist for analog IP. This is an excuse for custom analog design services to remain intact.
2) When analog IP was not widely available, the analog functions were pretty much custom designed and there was little reuse. However, with the increased availability of ready-to-integrate analog IP, this trend is shifting towards an IP reuse model.
I remember early in my career as a designer working for Philips Semiconductors in Eindhoven, there was an initiative to reduce the number of new data converters, to reuse as much as possible already existing designs. The same thing had already happened years before in digital design, so that even at that time no one questioned the idea of digital IP. We wanted to make that happen in analog design as well.
Today, a vendor that develops an analog IP roadmap is focused on the future requirements of a target market, and acts as a catalyst to accelerate the trend towards analog IP for that market.
For example, we have an analog IP portfolio of data converters that targets multiple applications: broadband wireless (LTE, WiMAX, WiFi) broadcast receivers, wireline, and video. These are all analog IP blocks that are ready to integrate without customization.
Q – Can you get 10 analog designers to go on record saying they're happily using analog IP in their designs, specifically IP they themselves did not design?
Navraj Nandra – Absolutely!
Last year, we commissioned an analog IP audit which polled about 400 engineers and managers worldwide, where we specifically asked that question.
Depending on the region, we had between 50% and 65% respondants state that they have used analog IP that was not developed in-house.
Q – Then why do you think the impression lingers that analog IP has not yet come of age?
Navraj Nandra – I don't necessarily see that. It's a regional issue.
Some regions are more open to purchasing analog IP. In fact, they see it as their competitive advantage. These are fast-paced companies developing the latest consumer devices that need ready-to-integrate data converters or an audio CODEC, for example.
And today, even large centralized engineering teams tasked with building IP are starting to purchase externally designed analog IP.
Q – Ultimately isn't it the problem that the interface around an analog design block is completely dependent upon its environment? There are no standard environments, so there's no analog IP.
Navraj Nandra – Not at all, for most analog circuits.
Even complex analog systems like video analog front-ends can be defined in a way that allows them to serve most application requirements, thus being good candidates for analog IP.
The exception to this is RF and power management -- this is where the IP model has been failing. One of the product decisions I made early on was not to offer RF and power management as analog IP.
But, that doesn't mean that analog IP is not here and available in most other categories.