Yes, looks like it!
First, on August 31, the India Semiconductor Association and the UK-TI would be signing an MoU. The next day, September 1, there is a presentation by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and key officials on the government of India’s policies to the industry!
Next, on September 4, the DIT Secretary R. Chandrasekhar and the Additional Secretary, will be interacting with semiconductor companies in Bangalore.
Further on, September 16 is the day when the Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Dr Farooq Abdullah, will be interacting with a small group of industry leaders at a solar PV conclave in Hyderabad!
That’s quite a lot, within a span of 15-odd days! Must say, this augurs well for the Indian semicon and solar/photovoltaics industry.
Interestingly, a lot of the big events are focusing on solar. So, my hunch is that the Indian solar industry may have some serious announcements to make in the coming weeks. Should that happen, I hope to bring those to you, time permitting.
TI bids for Qimonda’s tools
Oh, by the way, there’s news all over the Internet about Texas Instruments (TI) placing a bid of $172.5 million for Qimonda’s 300mm production tools from its closed DRAM fab. While this highlights TI’s focus on building the world’s first 300mm analog fab, I can’t stop wondering, what would have happened had an Indian investor really bought Qimonda!
I had the pleasure of attending the 20th International Conference on VLSI Design and 6th International Conference on Embedded Systems in Bangalore, and had the good fortune of meeting a range of top experts from these fields.
One panel discussion: “Are EDA technology/products becoming a commodity?”, particularly caught my attention. Speakers debated on whether commoditization of EDA tools was happening with little/no differentiation toward project success.
Dr. Anand Anandkumar, managing director, Magma India, also a good friend, elucidated that the semiconductor design industry cannot do a complex SoC without EDA. And if there’s no EDA, there’s no integration. “If you are a commodity, you cannot solve problems!”
Now EDA is a key driver for semiconductor design companies to achieve objectives of building more and more complex (SoCs). However, the overall market size of EDA industry [estimated at US $4 billion] remains a fraction of the overall semiconductor market size [estimated at US $240 billion].
Dr Anandkumar added there had been various paradigm shifts and problems. The EDA industry was in a way the IP partner with the semiconductor industry. However, he agreed that parts of the tools had been commoditized. The EDA industry had become a prisoner of its own business model.
Nevertheless, newer things have been racing forward. There are also a variety of conflicting problems. Understanding those problems could be a way of handling and solving complex designs. The part of taking over risks had been completely absent. There was little ownership in sharing risks, which needed to change.
From the perspective of consumer electronics eco-system, available EDA technology is often viewed as not being in sync with the expectations and requirements of various design teams. Claims of productivity and quality of results advantages from EDA teams can seem more like wishful thinking than reality to end users.
More so, related issues of quality, inter-operability of standard formats, usability and understanding of designer needs are other areas of ongoing concern. These are not necessarily new issues, so what were EDA companies and their customers doing to address them? Has the EDA industry been getting its proportional value out of the semiconductor industry? Would love to hear from you.
Bangalore-based Softjin Technologies is an electronic design automation (EDA) company providing unique EDA solutions for the semiconductor industry. According to Kamal Aggarwal, VP-Marketing and Strategy, the company’s core-capability lies in developing innovative EDA tools for specific requirements of customers, such as semiconductor companies and other EDA product companies.
Softjin’s business model is a “hybrid” model, which is a mix of services and products. It also provides FPGA based system design services and design methodology services for customers.
Softjin’s current products are licensable EDA building blocks that can be used as part of proving an EDA solution to customers in post-layout and logic synthesis technology area within EDA.
Post the announcement of India’s historic semicon policy, Softjin expects to see more investments happening in the semiconductor manufacturing space. As the policy provides incentives for setting up semiconductor manufacturing units above a certain size, Aggarwal expects to see more big-ticket announcements emerging in near future.
Watch the Indian semicon space, guys, as the action heats up…
The EDA 360 was an industry vision. It reflected a change in market requirements. It was application driven system design. From a Cadence perspective, the company has done system design enablement, according to Nimish Modi, senior VP, marketing and business development, Cadence Design Systems Inc.
In Apple’s case, the iOS is unique. Cadence feels that the heart of the design is the SoC. The electrical analysis is becoming very important. For instance, how do you optimize before tape-out? Hardware and software conversion presents a huge problem as well. The IP plays an important part. Cadence did IP-as-a-service. It now has an IP strategy.
Today, EDA is about possibility, not productivity. Cadence provides tools and content for semiconductor and systems companies. It is now realizing the EDA 360 vision.
According to Modi, each IP is immensely complex. Standards based or interface IP is not enough! Silicon-proven design is the need of the hour. Now, more and more IP blocks are said to be coming together.
Cadence is offering the Palladium XP, and its primary use is for system verification. Software development is becoming a little bit difficult. People are providing software prototypes. The Palladium compile, turnaround and debug are very fast, best-in-class. All memory, clocking, partitioning, etc., is now automated.
The capacity of the Protium platform is 100 million gates. It will enable hardware and software developers. The use model for Protium is:
* Hardware folks use it for hardware regression.
* Software folks use it for early software development.
The main value proposition is the faster bring-up time. Also, the Palladium hybrid model helps customers overcome the boot problem. It is a hybrid of emulation and virtual prototyping. The dynamic power analysis is another issue. The Palladium hybrid model helps to do the testing.
Collaboration with ARM
ARM provides processor IPs. Cadence works closely with ARM. Cadence is also co-optimizing its tools to provide the best PPA. Physical libraries and tools get optimized. Cadence’s tools are optimized for ARM architecture. Cadence is also the first ones on the access to the V8 ARM models.
Optic2Connect will be present at this year’s DAC. I caught up with Sean Seah, project manager, to find out more.
First, what’s the company’s X factor and why? (What is it that makes your offering special and noteworthy – how are you different from competitors)?
Optic2Connect develops software solutions for the photonics industry. The demand to manage high volumes of data in networks, especially with the current smart-phone and cloud computing trend, has increased tremendously. As design gets more complex, simulation tools need to scale with regard to fidelity and accuracy.
Currently, photonic designers, scientists, and fabrication engineers adopt an approximated approach from the electrical data to build an equivalent optical model, hence losing on device physics details. At the same time the process is long as the model needs to be described block-by-block with denser blocks representing a more detailed model. Our competitors are well established in their respective domains, electrical or optical, but they are strong in their own respective fields. However, intimate knowledge in both are essential to fully understand this newer generation of photonic devices. Failure to understand fully results in false results from the manufacturing.
With patented know-how, Optic2Connect provides software solutions that SOLVES this pertinent challenge. It maps accurately simulations from one domain to another, e.g. electrical to optical. This technology has been developed by a team of researchers at A*Star – Singapore Public Research Institute. The technology overcomes error-prone and detailed oriented simulation setups. We demonstrated the ability to map without losing any fidelity in the simulation files.
Optic2Connect’s IP differs from its competitors because it simulates directly from the beginning device processing, to electrical device performance until the final high-speed optical eye diagram. This is in stark contrast to the usual method of representing their operation using simplified transfer functions.
Furthermore, the Optic2Connect design flow uses the same reliable tools and processes from the semiconductor industry that are fully compatible with the Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) fabrication process of silicon microelectronics. This design flow uses standard tools libraries, device models especially for active components such as modulators, and simulation of these components incorporating the models.
How have you been doing this year so far? Seah said: “It has been excellent! We are racing to complete our product prototypes and we secured a contract from an MNC and another from universities.”
What’s the future path likely to be? Seah added: “We intend to further validate our prototype with our partners from industry and academia, and integrating advanced modulation formats into our solutions. We want to offer a fully integrated solution for photonic devices to our customers. Our goal is to offer a one-stop solution for leading integrated-circuit (IC) manufacturers!”
Why this name? You sounded like a telecom company!
Seah said: “We strongly believe the future of communications is via optics which has the ability to circumvent the data bottleneck issues. Optic2Connect is meant to offer connect using optical communications. Our goal is a one-stop solution for optical connections. “
How will the solution significantly shorten product time-to-market and reduce development costs of photonics devices?
For complex photonics devices, minute changes to design parameters are significant and could affect loss performance, and operating voltage requirements. One common approach in the industry today is to physically build the variations into multiple device / runs and test them out. Each run cost is the range of hundreds of thousands and consume precious time. Especially, if the first batch of devices do not meet required parameters and additional batches are required. This cost both money and time, which in turn is more money.
Hence, Optic2Connect provides an elegant solution with our accurate modelling and simulation solutions, this accelerates manufacturing prototypes and at much lower production costs. Our software solutions provide a 10x improvement in time reduction and time to market. Further, our cloud solution overcomes traditional problems of insufficient servers / licenses, especially during periods of peak demand.
This is the third installment on verification, now, taken up by Synopsys. Regarding the biggest verification mistakes today, Arindam Ghosh, director – Global Technical Services, Synopsys India, attributed these as:
* Spending no time on verification planning (not documenting what needs to be verified) and focusing more on running simulations or on execution.
* No or very low investment in building better verification environments (based on best/new methodologies and best practices); instead maintaining older verification environments.
* Compromising on verification completeness because of tape out pressures and time-to-market considerations.
Would you agree that many companies STILL do not know how to verify a chip?
He said that it could be true for smaller companies or start-ups, but most of the major semiconductor design engineers know about the better approaches/methodologies to verify their chips. However, they may not be investing in implementing the new methodologies for multiple reasons and may instead continue to follow the traditional flows.
One way to address these mistakes would be to set up strong methodology teams to create a better verification infrastructure for future chips. However, few companies are doing this.
Are companies realizing this and building an infrastructure that gets you business advantage? He added that some companies do realize this and are investing in building a better infrastructure (in terms of better methodology and flows) for verification.
When should good verification start?
When should good verification start — after design; as you are designing and architecting your design environment? Ghosh said that good verification starts as soon as we start designing and architecting the design. Verification leads should start discussing the verification environment components with the lead architect and also start writing the verification plan.
Are folks mistaking by looking at tools and not at the verification process itself? According to him, tools play a major role in the effectiveness of any verification process, but we still see a lot of scope in methodology improvements beyond the tools.
What all needs to get into verification planning as the ‘right’ verification path is fraught with complexities? Ghosh said that there is no single, full-proof recipe for a ‘right’ verification path. It depends on multiple factors, including whether the design is a new product or derivative, the design application etc. But yes, it is very important to do comprehensive verification planning before starting the verification process.
Synopsys is said to be building a comprehensive, unified and integrated verification environment is required for today’s revolutionary SoCs and would offer a fundamental shift forward in productivity, performance, capacity and functionality. Synopsys’ Verification Compiler provides the software capabilities, technology, methodologies and VIP required for the functional verification of advanced SoC designs in one solution.
Verification Compiler includes:
* Better capacity and compile and runtime performance.
* Next-generation static and formal technology delivering performance improvement and the capacity to analyze a complete SoC (Property checking, LP, CDC, connectivity).
* Comprehensive low power verification solution.
* Verification planning and management.
* Next-generation verification IP and a deep integration between VIP and the simulation engine, which in turn can greatly improve productivity. The constraint engine is tuned for optimal performance with its VIP library. It has integrated debug solutions for VIP so one can do protocol-level analysis and transaction-based analysis with the rest of the testbench.
* Support for industry standard verification methodologies.
* X-propagation simulation with both RTL and low power simulations.
* Common debug platform with better debug technology having new capabilities, tight integrations with simulation, emulation, testbench, transaction debug, power-aware debug , hw/sw debug, formal, VIP and coverage.
Top five recommendations for verification
What would be Synopsys’ top five recommendations for verification?
* Spend a meaningful amount of time and effort on verification planning before execution.
* Continuously invest in building a better verification infrastructure and methodologies across the company for better productivity.
* Collaborate with EDA companies to develop, evaluate and deploy new technologies and flows, which can bring more productivity to verification processes.
* Nurture fresh talent through regular on and off-the-job trainings (on flows, methodologies, tools, technology).
* Conduct regular reviews of the completed verification projects with the goal of trying to improve the verification process after every tapeout through methodology enhancements.
Following Mentor Graphics, Cadence Design Systems Inc. has entered the verification debate. ;) I met Apurva Kalia, VP R&D – System & Verification Group, Cadence Design Systems. In a nutshell, he advised that there needs to be proper verification planning in order to avoid mistakes. First, let’s try to find out the the biggest verification mistakes.
Top verification mistakes
Kalia said that the biggest verification mistakes made today are:
* Verification engineers do not define a structured notion of verification completeness.
* Verification planning is not done up front and is carried out as verification is going along.
* A well-defined reusable verification methodology is not applied.
* Legacy tools continue to be used for verification; new tools and technologies are not adopted.
In that case, why are some companies STILL not knowing how to verify a chip?
He added: “I would not describe the situation as companies not knowing how to verify a chip. Instead, I think a more accurate description of the problem is that the verification complexity has increased so much that companies do not know how to meet their verification goals.
“For example, the number of cycles needed to verify a current generation processor – as calculated by traditional methods of doing verification – is too prohibitive to be done in any reasonable timeframe using legacy verification methodologies. Hence, new methodologies and tools are needed. Designs today need to be verified together with software. This also requires new tools and methodologies. Companies are not moving fast enough to define, adopt and use these new tools and methodologies thereby leading to challenges in verifying a chip.”
How are companies trying to address the challenges?
Companies are trying to address the challenges in various ways:
* Companies at the cutting edge of designs and verification are indeed trying to adopt structured verification methodologies to address these challenges.
* Smaller companies are trying to address these challenges by outsourcing their verification to experts and by hiring more verification experts.
* Verification acceleration and prototyping solutions are being adopted to get faster verification and which will allow companies to do more verification in the same amount of time.
* Verification environment re-use helps to cut down the time required to develop verification environments.
* Key requirements of SoC integration and verification—including functionality, compliance, power, performance, etc.—are hardware/software debug efficiency, multi-language verification, low power, mixed signal, fast time to debug, and execution speed.
Cadence has the widest portfolio of tools to help companies meet verification challenges, including:
Incisive Enterprise Manager, which provides hierarchical verification technology for multiple IPs, interconnects, hardware/software, and plans to improve management productivity and visibility;
The recently launched vManager solution, a verification planning and management solution enabled by client/server technology to address the growing verification closure challenge driven by increasing design size and complexity;
Incisive Enterprise Verifier, which delivers dual power from tightly integrated formal analysis and simulation engines; and
Incisive Enterprise Simulator, which provides the most comprehensive IEEE language support with unique capabilities supporting the intent, abstraction, and convergence needed to speed silicon realization.
Are companies building an infrastructure that gets you business advantage? Yes, companies are realizing the problems. It is these companies that are the winners in managing today’s design and verification challenges, he said.
When should good verification start?
Kalia noted: “Good verification should start right at the time of the high level architecture of the design. A verification strategy should be defined at that time, and an overall verification plan should be written at that time. This is where a comprehensive solution like Incisive vManager can help companies manage their verification challenges by ensuring that SoC developers have a consistent methodology for design quality enhancements.”
Are folks mistaking by looking at tools and not at the verification process itself?
He addded that right tools and methodology are needed to resolve today’s verification challenges. Users need to work on defining verification methodologies and at the same time look at the tools that are needed to achieve verification goals.
Finally, there’s verification planning! What should be the ‘right’ verification path?
Verification planning needs to include:
* A formal definition of verification goals;
* A formal definition of coverage goals at all levels – starting with code coverage all the way to functional coverage;
* Required resources – human and compute;
* Verification timelines;
* All the verification tools to be used for verification; and
* Minimum and maximum signoff criteria.
It seems to be the season of verification. The Universal Verification Methodology (UVM 1.2) is being discussed across conferences. Dennis Brophy, director of Strategic Business Development, Mentor Graphics, says that UVM 1.2 release is imminent, and UVM remains a topic of great interest.
Biggest verification mistakes
Before I add Dennis Brophy’s take on UVM 1.2, I discussed with Dr. Wally Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics Corp. the intricacies regarding verification. First, I asked him regarding the biggest verification mistakes today.
Dr. Rhines said: “The biggest verification mistake made today is poor or incomplete verification planning. This generally results in underestimating the scope of the required verification effort. Furthermore, without proper verification planning, some teams fail to identify which verification technologies and tools are appropriate for their specific design problem.”
Would you agree that many companies STILL do not know how to verify a chip?
Dr. Rhines added: “I would agree that many companies could improve their verification process. But let’s first look at the data. Today, we are seeing that about 1/3 of the industry is able to achieve first silicon success. But what is interesting is that silicon success within our industry has remained constant over the past ten years (that is, the percentage hasn’t become any worse).
“It appears that, while design complexity has increased substantially during this period, the industry is at least keeping up with this added complexity through the adoption of advanced functional verification techniques.
“Many excellent companies view verification strategically (and as an advantage over their competition). These companies have invested in maturing both their verification processes and teams and are quite productive and effective. On the other hand, some companies are struggling to figure out the entire SoC space and its growing complexity and verification challenges.”
How are companies trying to address those?
According to him, the recent Wilson Research Group Functional Verification Study revealed that the industry is maturing its verification processes through the adoption of various advanced functional verification techniques (such as assertion-based verification, constrained-random simulation, coverage-driven techniques, and formal verification). Complexity is generally forcing these companies to take a hard look at their existing processes and improve them.
Getting business advantage
Are companies realizing this and building an infrastructure that gets you business advantage?
He added that in general, there are many excellent companies out there that view verification strategically and as an advantage over their competition, and they have invested in maturing both their verification processes and teams. On the other hand, some other companies are struggling to figure out the entire SoC space and its growing complexity and verification challenges.
When should good verification start?
When should good verification start — after design; as you are designing and architecting your design environment?
Dr. Rhines noted: “Just like the design team is often involved in discussion during the architecture and micro-architecture planning phase, the verification team should be an integral part of this process. The verification team can help identify architectural aspects of the design that are going to be difficult to verify, which ultimately can impact architectural decisions.”
Are folks mistaken by looking at tools and not at the verification process itself? What can be done to reverse this?
He said: “Tools are important! However, to get the most out of the tools and ensure that the verification solution is an efficient and repeatable process is important. At Mentor Graphics, we recognize the importance of both. That is why we created the Verification Academy, which focuses on developing skills and maturing an organization’s functional verification processes.”
What all needs to get into verification planning as the ‘right’ verification path is fraught with complexities?
Dr. Rhines said: “During verification planning, too many organizations focus first on the “how” aspect of verification versus the “what.” How a team plans to verify its designs is certainly important, but first you must identify exactly what needs to be verified. Otherwise, something is likely to slip through.
“In addition, once you have clearly identified what needs to be verified, it’s an easy task to map the functional verification solutions that will be required to productively accomplish your verification goals. This also identifies what skill sets will need to be developed or acquired to effectively take advantage of the verification solutions that you have identified as necessary for your specific problem.”
How is Mentor addressing this situation?
Mentor Graphics’ Verification Academy was created to help organizations mature their functional verification processes—and verification planning is one of the many excellent courses we offer.
In addition, Mentor Graphics’ Consulting provides customized solutions to technical challenges on real projects with real schedules. By helping customers successfully integrate advanced functional verification technologies and methodologies into their work flows, we help ensure they meet their design and business objectives.
Five recommendations for verification
Finally, I asked him, what would be your top five recommendations for verification?
Here are the five recommendations for verification from Dr. Rhines:
* Ensure your organization has implemented an effective verification planning process.
* Understand which verification solutions and technologies are appropriate (and not appropriate) for various classes of designs.
* Develop or acquire the appropriate skills within your organization to take advantage of the verification solutions that are required for your class of design.
* For the SoC class of designs, don’t underestimate the effort required to verify the hardware/software interactions, and ensure you have the appropriate resources to do so.
* For any verification processes you have adopted, make sure you have appropriate metrics in place to help you identify the effectiveness of your process—and identify opportunities for process improvements in terms of efficiency and productivity.
In 2013, the global semiconductor industry had touched $306 billion or so. Sales had doubled from $100 billion to $200 billion in six years — from 1994 to 2000. It was enterprise sales that was driving this. It has taken 14 years to move past $300 billion, said Anil Gupta, managing director, Applied Micro Circuits India Pvt Ltd, at the UVM 1.2 day.
This time, consumption of semiconductors is not only around enterprise, but social networks as well. Out of the $306 billion, logic was approximately $86 billion, memory was $67 billion, and micro was $58 billion. We, as consumers, are starting to play a huge role.
However, the number of large players seem to be shrinking. Mid-size firms, like Applied Micro, are said to be struggling. Technology is playing an interesting role. There is a very significant investment in FinFETs. It may only get difficult for all of us. Irrespective, all of this is a huge barrier to the mid- to small-companies. Acquisitions are probably the only route, unless you are in software.
In India, we have been worried for a while, whether the situation will be a passing phase. We definitely will have a role to play. From an expertise perspective, thanks to our background, we have been a poor nation. For us, the job is the primary goal. We need to think: how do we deliver value? We have to try and keep creating value for as long as possible.
As more and more devices actually happen, many other things are also happening. An example for devices is power. We still have a fair number of years ahead where there will be opportunities to deliver value.
What’s happening between hardware and software? The latter is in demand. Clearly, there is a trend to make the hardware a commodity. However, hardware s not going away! Therefore, the opportunity for us to deliver value is huge.
Taking the tools to make something, is critical. UVM tools are critical. But, somewhere along the way, we seem to stop at that. We definitely need to add value. UVM’s aim is to make things re-usable.
Don’t loose your focus while doing verification. Think about the block, the subsystem and the top. You need to and will discover and realize how valuable it is to find a bug, before the tape out of the chip.
Are we at an inflection point in verification today? Delivering the guest keynote at the UVM 1.2 day, Vikas Gautam, senior director, Verification Group, Synopsys, said that today, mobile and the Internet of Things are driving growth. Naturally, the SoCs are becoming even more complex. It is also opening up new verification challenges, such as power efficiency, more software, and reducing time-to-market. There is a need to shift-left to be able to meet time-to-market goal.
The goal is to complete your verification as early as possible. There have been breakthrough verification innovations. System Verilog brought in a single language. Every 10-15 years, there has been a need to upgrade verification.
Today, many verification technologies are needed. There is a growing demand for smarter verification. There is need for much upfront verification planning. There is an automated setup and re-use with VIP. There is a need to deploy new technologies and different debug environments. The current flows are limitimg smart verification. There are disjointed environments with many tools and vendors.
Synopsys has introduced the Verification Compiler. You get access to each required technology, as well as next-gen technology. These technologies are natively integrated. All of this enables 3X verification productivity.
Regarding next gen static and formal platforms, there will be capacity and performance for SoCs. It should be compatible with implementation products and flows. There is a comprehensive set of applications. The NLP+X-Prop can help find tough wake-up bug at RTL. Simulation is tuned for the VIP. There is a ~50 percent runtime improvement.
System Verilog has brought in many new changes. Now, we have the Verification Compiler. Verdi is an open platform. It offers VIA – a platform for customizing Verdi. VIA improves the debug efficiency.