Will Open Source Silicon IP ever happen?


Open source silicon ip

I read an online journal called Open Source Business Resource (OSBR) which is edited by a team based in Canada with links to the Technology Innovation Management (TIM) Master's program from Carleton University.

There is an article in the new May issue by Arthur Low, who is the CTO of a company called Crack Semiconductor. They are in the embedded security/silicon IP market.

I recommend that anyone who has an interest in SoC, IC or EDA has a read of the article. Firstly, the writing is superb and it is a nicely-crafted history of the silicon/semiconductor industry. Second, the thesis that it took a shift from expensive proprietary EDA tools to free/open-source tools to enable smaller companies to get into the silicon IP market is interesting.

But what really made me think required going a little beyond Arthur's points. It's the idea that silicon IP *itself* could be open-sourced. That is, it would be licensed for free and revenue to the IP developers would be for support and integration services.

Coming back closer to Cambridge, I recall an article about this in 2009 written by Jeremy Bennett of Embecosm Ltd. It was originally published in “The Ring”, the journal of the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory and the PDF can be downloaded from here.

In the field of integrated software for silicon, we know the idea of open-source software is hardly new. Embedded Linux and open source versions of various RFC protocols are old hats (that must be a variant on Red Hat). But the idea of open-source hardware and open-source IP is one I'm just waking up to. I'm probably the last one to get it, but it's intriguing. What do the IC guys think about it?

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Tags: Open Source Software, Fabless semicondutor design

Paul Walsh

Written by Paul Walsh

Paul Walsh was one of the founders of Cognidox. After a period as an academic working in user experience (UX) research, Paul started a 25-year career in software development. He's worked for multinational telecom companies (Nortel), two $1B Cambridge companies (Ionica, Virata), and co-founded a couple of startup companies. His experience includes network management software, embedded software on silicon, enterprise software, and cloud computing.