It’s Time For Companies To Embrace IP Management

What keeps companies from adopting new methods that could improve efficiency?


Everything is a rat race these days. You can see everyone scurrying around trying to be ahead of everyone else. It is the same wherever you look, be it at schools, at work, at the grocery store, on the roads. Semiconductor companies – big and small alike – are more intent than ever on trying to be the first to get their SoCs into the market. Some are bound by cultures and traditions on how they work, while others believe in the notion of putting more people on the job to hasten the process of taping out their SoCs on time. While some companies are open to breaking with the past to adopt new methods to work efficiently, others are concerned about the risks involved.

While raising my son, I had the good fortune to meet Master Ju, who taught Taekwando at a small place in Pleasanton, Calif. Kids and parents alike used to dread him when they joined, fearing his exacting methods. Those who were caught in the fear and realized that this was no easy journey to the black belt degree dropped out and chose other instructors. Kids who persisted went on to think big and win medals in the world arena.

Master Ju believed in the notion that if you are struggling in trying to make things work, it is time to stop, go back to basics and evolve a better method. He had a legendary tag line that I came to love: “Discipline is your greatest weapon in life.”

As companies – big and small alike – struggle to evolve from either small design teams to large design teams, or avoid the pitfalls of a rat race and become a market leader, it becomes necessary to step back to see whether resources are being leveraged within the company to deliver successful tape-outs in a timely manner. However, there are few companies that run like well-oiled machines, using their resources effectively to churn out the IPs with efficiency.

Most design managers know they need to better leverage the use and management of the IPs and SoCs they create. But why then are they so apprehensive about choosing a solution? The challenge for them is akin to being at a crossroads, not sure of which path to take to solve the problem of managing and leveraging the IPs but fearful of the hardships it will cause within the company. Some would argue, “If it ain’t broken, why fix it?” Some companies that have evolved because of acquisitions find different internal groups have their own method of managing the IPs. So how does one find a solution that works for all the groups and gives the company economies and efficiencies of scale? Then, there is also the additional challenge of uploading the IPs into the software as well as deciding where to store/find the IPs. So, what is the solution?

IP Management as a solution has long been thought of a nice-to-have and has been ignored by many. But it has slowly but surely emerged as a must-have for companies that want to win on a global front by churning out IPs/SoCs successfully.

Most product companies, which develop a lot of IPs, create and manage their own in-house solutions to manage IP exchange within the company. These can range from complex Excel spreadsheets to in-house scripts to in-house software. Using Excel spreadsheets trivializes the problem considerably, and a lot of details tend to get lost. For example, most Excel spreadsheets lack information on who has downloaded the IPs and which SoCs are using the IPs. Alternatively, some product companies have been clairvoyant about the need to manage the IPs and have invested heavily in in-house software solutions to manage these IPs. However this solution suffers from the overhead of having to constantly hire a team of engineers to develop and manage the software. Solutions such as these have typically grown from a narrow set of requirements within a design group and are unable to adopt to changing design styles, environments, security and additional features. Moreover, it is always a “make-versus-buy” decision. A company would have to constantly hire a team to manage and upgrade the software as needed. Web technologies and security standards are constantly evolving and it is difficult to keep track of the various updates, which you can ill afford to ignore. Instead, the need of the hour is for companies to focus on their core competencies to remain ahead in the race to win. So instead of developing their own solutions, why shouldn’t design companies turn to commercial solutions?

Turns out they have, but just in trickles. So, what seems to be the problem?

Almost all commercial solution providers that attempt to address the IP management issue unfortunately tie their solution to only a few data-management software solutions. And with strongly worded methodologies on how to use the software, it can be cumbersome for design companies that have cross-pollinated different design cultures. They require a large CAD team to support it, which essentially defeats the purpose of using a commercial solution. And they are not scalable to be integrated with different tools, which are in vogue today.

How does one solve this conundrum? At ClioSoft, we embarked on a mission five years ago to think differently and come up with a solution, which would be easy to use, secure, scalable and extends the IP definition to include all types of IPs – semiconductor IPs, documents, PowerPoints, flows, scripts, ideas and so on. Our solution, designHUB, is not tied to any data-management system and is flexible to be integrated with any tool or environment with ease.

As companies grow, the SoC design data inevitably gets scattered in different data management systems, network-attached storage solutions (NAS), etc. and it becomes difficult to track the design data for the SoCs. With designHUB, it tracks all the designs and the associated data and becomes the single portal within the company to access any design within the company making it easier for design teams to leverage and produce new IPs/SoCs.

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