Semiconductor IP News and Trends Blog
Which IP Interfaces are Designers Using?
Several recent surveys reveal growth in DDRn, USB 3.0, PCIe, HDMI, SATA, and MIPI interfaces. Also, ethernet and ARM buses remain popular in specific areas.
By John Blyler, Editorial Director, IP Systems
Recently, I came upon a very brief chip design and functional verification survey conducted by Arrow Devices (see Figure 1). Although the survey size was fairly small – 56 participants – the data on protocol selections caught my eye.
The Arrow Devices analysis noted differences in protocols concerns between design and verification engineers-managers. “While for Design engineers USB 3.1 & PCIe were the most sought after protocols, for verification engineers it was AMBA and DDRn,” noted the survey’s author, Neha Mittal “While MIPI MPHY and MIPI Unipro have gained significant traction over the last year, the other MIPI technologies lag a bit behind.”
These results are supportive of a GSA IP Interface survey held at the end of 2014. Conducted by Dr Eric Esteve, owner of IP Nest, the survey categorized interface IP by protocols since IP vendors rank revenue data by such category segments (see Figure 2). The top six positions in terms of revenue where DDRn Memory Controller IP, USB 3.0, PCIe, HDMI, SATA, and MIPI. For external display interfaces, HDMI was the de-facto standard followed by DisplayPort, MHL (HDMI signaling / USB 2 connector), and MIPI DSI.
Ethernet is the strongest interface IP for both data networking (40Gb and 100Gb rates) and, more recently, automotive connectivity. The OPEN (One-Pair Ether-Net) Alliance Ethernet-based communication continues to gain support in the automotive space. The first PHY for In-Vehicle-Networking will support 100MBit/s. (See, “Broad Reaching Ethernet and NFC See Automotive Growth”)
The one glaring standout between the Arrow Devices and IP Nest findings is the ARM AMBA interface. From years of surveys that I conducted while at Chip Design magazine, I know that ARM’s AMBA and related buses where the most popular to connect software simulation and FPGA based prototyping/emulation/acceleration platforms. From the 2012 Chip Design Trends (CDT) survey, ARM-based interfaces were the most popular (56.4%) – including ACE, AMBA, AXI, AHB, or APB variations (see Figure 3). OCP was the choice interface for 17.3% designers. Many software developers just didn’t know what interface was used (36.4%).
That same CDT survey revealed the most used interfaces by ASIC designers creating FPGA prototypes (see Figure 4). These numbers support both of the earlier mentioned IP interface studies – sans the DDRn memory controller. This omission is not surprising as the CDT study focused on the prototyping of ASIC blocks using FPGAs where memory mapping would be an issue.
The overview of several surveys, while not statistically accurate, does confirm growth trends in IP interfaces in the segments of DDRn memory controllers, USB 3.0, PCIe, HDMI, SATA, and MIPI. Further, Ethernet is finding acceptance in the automotive market and ARM buses remain popular in chip space.