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New Tools for Managing IP

IP can be a pain in the butt. Any large company will presumably have tons of IP, some from inside, some from outside, being used in a variety of projects. Each piece of IP may be changed to do things differently or even to fix bugs. If two or more projects rely on the same IP, then those changes might benefit all the projects, or they might diverge. Regardless, it can be really, really hard to manage all of this across a large company.

IC Manage recently did a survey and found that 50% of respondents felt that IP management needed advancement within the next two years, ahead of embedded software tools (26%) and EDA design tools (42%), and behind only EDA verification tools (63%). The survey was done in April, so presumably they were working on their IP management solution before seeing the results. Nonetheless, it shows that there is a problem here.

Both IC Manage and Methodics announced IP management solutions at DAC last week. IC Manage’s solution is called IP Central, and it’s a repository for IP, whether or not associated with specific projects. This product isn’t specifically tied in with their design management (DM) product: in fact, each of the IP blocks tracked by IC Central can reside in any of a number of DM systems. But it helps track when changes are made to the IP, and whether those changes should be pushed back to the master version or branched into a new piece of derivative IP. It also tracks which IP (or version) has been tested by which tests. When used in a project, the designer or project manager can request a specific version of the IP or just the “latest tested version” or some other such characterization.

Methodics incorporated similar capabilities into their ProjectIC system. There is a heavy emphasis on metrics and tracking, with metadata for each piece of IP (although populating that information is the responsibility of the IP designer – there’s no automatic power or sizing estimation or anything like that). Much of the capability appears to be aimed at internally-generated IP, since designers can publish their IP into the system. Other designers can then subscribe to IP in the system – whether of internal or external origin. Managers can establish viewing and subscribing permissions to help ensure confidentiality and license term adherence if necessary. You can also build in business logic, like export or licensing restrictions.

More info is available on either IC Manage’s or Methodics’s press releases…

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