Agnisys Inc. was established in 2007 in Massachusetts, USA, with a mission to deliver innovative automation to the semiconductor industry. The company offers affordable VLSI design and verification tools for SoCs, FPGAs and IPs that makes the design verification process extremely efficient.
Agnisys’ IDesignSpec is an award winning engineering tool that allows an IP, chip or system designer to create the register map specification once and automatically generate all possible views from it. Various outputs are possible, such as UVM, OVM, RALF, SystemRDL, IP-XACT etc. User defined outputs can be created using Tcl or XSLT scripts. IDesignSpec’s patented technology improves engineer’s productivity and design quality.
The IDesignSpec automates the creation of registers and sequences guaranteeing higher quality and consistent results across hardware and software teams. As your ASIC or FPGA design specification changes, IDesignSpec automatically adjusts your design and verification code, keeping the critical integration milestones of your design engineering projects synchronized.
Register verification and sequences consume up to 40 percent of project time or more when errors are the source of re-spins of SoC silicon or an increase in the number of FPGA builds. IDesignSpec family of products is available in various flavors such as IDSWord, IDSExcel, IDSOO and IDSBatch.
IDesignSpec more than a tool for creating register models!
Anupam Bakshi, founder, CEO and chairman, Agnisys, said: “IDesignSpec is more than a tool for creating register models. It is now a complete Executable Design Specification tool. The underlying theme is always to capture the specification in an executable form and generate as much code in the output as possible.”
The latest additions in the IDesignSpec are Constraints, Coverage, Interrupts, Sequences, Assertions, Multiple Bus Domains, Special Registers and Parameterization of outputs.
“IDesignSpec offers a simple and intuitive way to specify constraints. These constraints, specified by the user, are used to capture the design intent. This design intent is transformed into code for design, verification and software. Functional Coverage models can be automatically generated from the spec so that once again the intent is captured and converted into appropriate coverage models,” added Bakshi.
Using an add-on function of capturing Sequences, the user is now able to capture various programming sequences in the spec, which are translated into C++ and UVM sequences, respectively. Further, the interrupt registers can now be identified by the user and appropriate RTL can be generated from the spec. Both edge sensitive and level interrupts can be handled and interrupts from various blocks can be stacked.
Assertions can be automatically generated from the high level constraint specification. These assertions can be created with the RTL or in the external files such that they can be optionally bound to the RTL. Unit level assertions are good for SoC level verification and debug, and help the user in identifying issues deep down in the simulation hierarchy.
The user can now identify one or more bus domains associated with Registers and Blocks, and generate appropriate code from it. Special Registers such as shadow registers and register aliasing is also automatically generated.
Finally all of the outputs such as RTL, UVM, etc., can be parameterized now, so that a single master specification can be used to create outputs that can be parameterized at the elaboration time.
How is IDesignSpec working as chip-level assertion-based verification?
Bakshi said: “It really isn’t an assertion tool! The only assertion that we automatically generate is from the constraints that the user specifies. The user does not need to specify the assertions. We transform the constraints into assertions.”
Today, the challenge is all about abstraction and putting automation around it. Productivity is automation and abstraction. Tom Feist, senior marketing director, Design Methodology Marketing, Xilinx said that the company’s strategy has been about All Programmable abstractions. He was speaking at the ongoing 13th Global Electronics Summit being held in Santa Cruz, USA.
Today’s hardware design abstractions include accelerated time to integration, abstracting hardware. For IP abstractions, Xilinx has introduced the IP integrator. It enables IP re-use and time to integration. The Vivado uses multiple plug-and-play IP. Vivado IP integrator is co-optimized for platforms and for silicon, respectively.
Vivado IP integrator has features such as correct-by-construction and automated IP systems. Vivado high-level synthesis allows C/C++ abstractions. Xilinx introduced the OpenCV library, accelerating smarter vision. It supports frame-level processing library for PS. It also supports pixel processing interfaces and basic functions for analytics.
Mathworks has model based abstraction. The automatic C and HDL code generation is supported from the same algorithmic level.
Hardware/software partitioning is supported for Zynq-7000 AP SoCs. There are comprehensive video, motor control and signal processing IP libraries. There are automated workflows targeting Xilinx platforms.
Xilinx is also working with National Instruments. The automated C and HDL code generation is from the same graphical syntax in the LabVIEW IDE. It automatically generates a hardware implementation to meet requirements, abstracting Xilinx tool flow. There is a comprehensive software, hardware and I/O platform for creating control and monitoring systems.
Abstraction evolution has evolved to system level abstraction. It is abstracting all hardware through an increasing layer of automation.
All Programmable realization empowers software and systems engineers. There is a common compilation environment for heterogenous systems. It consumes C, C++ or OpenCL and libraries with user directives. There is automated flow — the user determines the program modules that run on various components.
The Vivado Design Suite 2013 abstractions with IP based design, C, C++, SystemC and OpenCV is new. Mathworks and National Instruments system level design abstractions with new levels of automation is emerging. Xilinx’s vision has been to empower the software and systems engineers by extending abstractions and automation.
Exar Corp., established 1971, is headquartered in Fremont, USA, and has design centers in Silicon Valley and Hangzhou, China. Louis DiNardo, president and CEO, Exar, said that the company’s strategic model is to serve high-growth markets with innovative value-added solutions. He was speaking at the ongoing 13th Globalpress Electronics Summit in Santa Cruz, USA.
Exar offers solutions that includes high performance analog-mixed signal as well as data management solutions. Its current market focus is on networking and storage, industrial and embedded systems, and communications infrastructure. It is focusing on power management products, connectivity products and data management solutions.
Power management products include those for analog power management such as switching regulators, switching controllers, linear regulators, supervisory controllers, etc, For programmable power, Exar focuses on multiple output synchronous buck controllers.
Some of the products include POWER, the Exar Programmable PowerSuite 5.0. Recently, Calceda has been powering servers with the PowerXR technology.
For data compression and security, Exar is offering hardware acceleration and software solutions meant for compression and decompression, acceleration, encryption and decryption. There are high growth markets supporting social networking, industrial Internet and financial technology as well.
Exar’s Panther I is a first generation compression/security engine with the PCIe interface. The Panther II is a second generation compression and security engine with PCIe and FPGA interface.
FPGAs serve highly diverse applications. Tailored devices are serving diverging market needs. According to Vince Hu, VP Product & Corporate Marketing, Altera Corp., next-generation portfolio involves an ideal mix of process technologies.
There is greater diversity and capabilities for the broadest range of applications. Finally, Altera has added the 55nm EmbFlash that extends Altera’s tailored approach. Hu was speaking at the 13th Globalpress Electronics Summit being held in Santa Cruz, USA.
Addressing needs of higher-volume systems is key. Industrial and automotive systems tend to be cost sensitive, low power and limited in broad areas. There is an increased pressure to innovate leading to a strong demand for programmable solutions with enhanced features. Altera is expanding the capabilities of non-volatile programmable logic devices (PLDs).
Altera is also bolstering high-volume system solutions. TSMC leading-edge embedded flash technology is a device tailored for high-volume applications. It adds more functionality to non-volatile PLDs. It also re-inforces Altera’s commitment to high-volume applications.
In addressing power/performance challenges, 20SoC is said to be the quickest path to next-generation process. It is tailored for a range of performance and bandwidth-critical applications. There is up to 60 percent lower power vs. 28nm. One of the latest results with 20SoC process is the first 32Gbps transceivers that are operating in 20nm silicon.
Currently, high-end applications are pushing the envelope. Intel’s 14nm tri-gate is said to be a game changer for FPGAs. Tri-gate
surrounds channel on the three sides. It increases channel performance and reduces power. Tri-gate is a proven, second- generation technology. The 14nm tri-gate maintains the Moore’s Law.
Driving toward 400G OTN systems
Altera has acquired OTN IP provider TPACK. It accelerates the company’s OTN roadmap and builds on the Avalon acquisition in 2010. OTN IP, combined with high-performance silicon, positions Altera for continued growth in the high-end networking market.
Tailored devices are now serving diverging market needs. It is an extension of Altera’s tailored approach. There are even greater diversity and capabilities, serving the broadest range of applications. A mixture of application-specific IP provides even greater tailored solutions. Altera is mixing the advanced FinFET process, traditional HKMG planar process and embedded flash technology.
Xilinx Inc. has announced solutions for significant and growing gaps in ASIC and ASSP offerings targeting next-generation smarter networks and data centers. It has been acquiring and developing a SmartCORE IP portfolio and a critical mass of application specialists and services that leverage Xilinx’s All Programmable FPGAs, SoCs, and 3D ICs.
To find out more about how are Xilinx’s solutions targeting growing ASIC and ASSP gaps for next-gen smarter networks and data centers, I spoke with Neeraj Varma, director, Sales-India, Xilinx. He said: “Over the past several years, Xilinx has been making a transition from the leading FPGA vendor to a provider of All Programmable Solutions for Smarter Systems. With its All Programmable 7 Series FPGAS, All Programmable SoCs and the VivadoTM Design Suite, Xilinx now offers a comprehensive set of solutions that provide end-to-end system implementation.
“Through strategic acquisitions, investments in silicon products and IP development, Xilinx has started to replace entire ASSPs and ASICs in the communications market by offering a complete IP cores portfolio which allows customers to design Smarter Systems for networking, communications and data center applications.
“Xilinx is calling this set of IP cores, SmartCORE IP, because they are the critical application-specific building blocks needed to develop smarter networking and communications systems. We are responding to market need and that need has accelerated recently as the viability of ASICs and more recently ASSPs have been severely challenged. Xilinx is a generation ahead in SoC and tools and its leadership at 28nm borne out with revenue ramp.”
Developing SmartCORE IP portfolio
What is meant by Xilinx acquiring and developing a SmartCORE IP portfolio and a critical mass of application specialists and services?
According to him, 28nm design process devices require a new and a different set of tools to exploit all the capabilities. That was one of the reasons for Xilinx to invest heavily in resources and time to come up with the Vivado Design Suite, to be able to support the large designs and get them into production with minimal effort and ease.
Vivado supports the growing use of IP blocks to reduce the complexity of the designs which are very critical in the implementation of complex networking and communications systems. This is one of the main reasons Xilinx spent years to develop strategic partnerships and making acquisitions such as Omiino (OTN IP solutions), Modelware (Traffic Management and Packet processing IP solutions), Sarance (Ethernet and Interlaken IP solutions) and Modesat (Microwave and Eband backhaul IP solutions) to offer a comprehensive set of IP cores to design Smarter Systems for networking, communications and data centre applications.
How are the solutions going to address the challenges with ASICs and ASSPs?
He said that ASICs and ASSPs targeting the communications, networking, and data center equipment markets have been disappearing at a surprisingly rapid pace due to many factors, including escalating IC-design costs and the need for much greater levels of intelligence and adaptability—all driven by wide variance in application and device requirements.
Additionally, the equipment markets no longer accept “me too” equipment design, which means that ASSP-based equipment design has almost vanished due to limited flexibility. These growing gaps are pervasive across all markets.These challenges, coupled with the rapidly increasing design costs and lengthy design cycles for both ASICs and ASSPs have created significant solution gaps for equipment design teams.
ASSPs and ASICs are either too late to market to meet OEM or operator requirements, are significantly overdesigned to satisfy the superset requirements of many diverse customers, are not a good fit for specific target applications, and/or provide limited ability for customers to differentiate their end products. Equipment vendors face many or all of these gaps when attempting to use the solutions offered by ASIC and ASSP vendors.
Singapore based Plunify claims that chip design companies can design faster and better using cloud computing. Stressing on the company’s go-to-market strategy, Plunify’s founder, Harn Hua Ng, said the Plunify partners with tool vendors, their distributors and complementary sales representatives.
Since pay-as-you-go business models are rare in the semiconductor industry, we went through several steps, of which the first was to better understand the market, the available tools and stake-holders:
* How is the market reacting to cloud computing and licensing schemes?
* What are current tool capabilities with regards to multiple CPUs/servers? Which parts of the chip design workflow can best take advantage of scalable, parallel features?
* What tools are more suitable for a cloud environment?
With these in mind, the next step was to build the cloud platform and the application clients to address immediate concerns – security, accessibility and cost.
“Then, we partner with tool vendors, their distributors and sales reps to bring our solutions to end-users. Companies of different sizes
view the advantages of cloud computing differently, so solutions need to be customized accordingly. Some see Plunify as solving longer term IT problems of scaling and provisioning; while others use us as an immediate way to speed up their design workflows. We are still in the process of learning about the market.”
How can the on-demand cloud computing platform dramatically accelerate chip design workflows? According to Harn Hua Ng, one immediate benefit is an almost instantaneous fulfillment of peak demand IT requirements, for example, a urgent request to do 100 synthesis builds to fix a problem due yesterday. Or if the problem cannot be fixed, at least the design team will find out in a day rather than potentially in three months’ worth of runtime without a cloud solution. The longer term acceleration is a gradual parallelization of the design workflow.
Currently, chip designers tend to visualize the design workflow as a chain of mostly serial steps with many dependencies, just because many steps can be time-consuming (both in terms of runtime and time taken to analyze intermediate results).
With an on-demand compute platform, designers can have more room to experiment and to optimize, more readily incorporating agile practices in hardware development.
Xilinx Inc. has announced its 20nm portfolio strategy. The 20nm portfolio will allow Xilinx to offer twice the performance at half the power. It will increase productivity by 4x, and improve integration by 1.5- 2x. Besides, there will be 20-50 percent lower BOM cost.
Xilinx’s 20nm all programmable portfolio builds on 28nm breakthroughs to stay a generation ahead. ”At 20nm, we were able to break out to become an all programmable company,” said Neeraj Varma, country manager, sales, India, Australia and New Zealand, Xilinx India.
The next generation FPGAs, second generation SoCs and 3D ICs will be ‘co-optimized’ with Vivado for the most compelling alternative ever to ASICs and ASSPs. From enabling programmable logic, the Xilinx 20nm portfollio will enable programmable systems integration!
The first SoC strength design suite was shipped in Q2-2012. It has been built from ground up for the next decade of all programmable devices. Today, the Xilnix Vivado is used for over 30 percent of 28nm FPGAs and 100 percent for 3D ICs.
Xilinx has been expanding on its next generation competencies. The 3D IC expertise and supply chain has gone from homogenous to heterogenous. The SoC and embedded software has also undergone change, as have XCVRs and analog mixed signal (AMS), communications BU and applications IP, and next generation design automation. Xilinx is now charting an aggressive course forward.
Xilinx’s 20nm portfolio has been co-optimized for performance, power and integration to address the market needs at 20nm. For the next-generation FPGA,, it will provide unmatched system optimized transceivers at highest channel quality w/ second generation auto equalization. There will be higher bandwidth w/over 100 transceivers @ 33Gb/s.
There will be 2X performance optimization, with faster DSP and BRAM, DDR4, transceivers and 2x memory bandwidth. There will be over 90 percent routing architecture enabling high bandwidth bussing and fast design. One half power optimization will provide an optimized performance/watt. There will be next generation block level power management. There will be 1.5x integration/BOM in terms of 1.5x logic, DSP, BRAM, AMS, VCXO, etc. Read more…
Future Horizons recently organized and held the 21st Annual Electronics Forum on Oct. 3-5 at Bratislava, Slovakia. Here are excerpts from some of the proceedings:
Mojy Chian, senior VP Design Enablement. GlobalFoundries presented on ‘Foundry 2.0: The Era of Collaborative Device Manufacturing.’: Despite some predictions to the contrary, the foundry-based fabless model is not going away, and moreover it is driving manufacturers and device designers closer together. But like all living organisms, especially those in electronics, we have to continue to evolve. There are warning signs, both technical and economic, emerging in the foundry business that warrant our attention, and in fact require a re-thinking of how best to apply our resources and energy.
Recent talks of fabless companies investing in their own fabs, and of foundries developing ‘single company fabs’ underscore the sense of urgency. Clearly, we must change – Call it Foundry 2.0! This will be driven, ironically, by a move toward a more IDM-like model. Strategic collaboration that creates a ‘virtual IDM-like interface’ to chip design companies will help further close the gap between process teams at the manufacturing companies and design teams at the fabless companies.
With daunting technical challenges like 3D stacking, 450mm fabs, new transistor architectures, multipatterning, and the long-term viability of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, collaboration – early, often and deep – is really the only practical approach given the cost and complexities involved.
John Lofton Holt. founder, and chairman of the Board of directors. Achronix, presented on “Embedded FPGAs – Enabling The Next Generation Of Flexible SoCs.’: The system-on-chip (SoC) ecosystem is at a fundamental crossroads. With total
chip development and manufacturing costs exceeding $100 million at 22nm, it is no longer cost effective for most SoC designers to build a discrete chip for every application. As a result, SoC designers are investing in programmable intellectual property (IP) for IO expansion, emerging standards compliance and application acceleration.
This programmable IP ranges from microcontrollers and processors to simple state machines that are register-programmable. Nearly every SoC built today has some kind of programmable IP. The programmable logic industry is addressing this SoC challenge in a different way. Coming from the “other end of the spectrum”, the major public FPGA manufacturers are implementing more and more hard IP on their dies to reduce the area penalty of the programmable logic for specific applications.
These techniques, while effective for some mid-range volume applications, will not scale to high volume SoCs. The major public FPGA companies are also very hesitant to license their programmable fabric to SoC designers, fearing competition in their core markets and erosion of margins.
Rudy Lauwereins, VP Smart Systems Technology Office, IMEC, presented on ‘Providing “Insite” In The Unknown Design Space’: As technology scaling nears the “final frontier”, designers are confronted with an increasing number of restrictions.
Printing smaller and smaller features remains possible, but requires more and more regular layout patterns. Transistors can still be reduced in size, but may fall short of meeting electrical specifications. Smaller wires are becoming a performance bottleneck.
As technology scaling becomes less ideal, established design paradigms start to break. Creative and innovative solutions are required to sustain the momentum of Moore’s law: hitting the sweet-spot for cost and performance requires tight interaction between the technology development community and the design community. In an increasingly fabless world, imec’s Insite program builds the bridges between these communities.
Xilinx Inc. has announced the Vivado Design Suite. It enables an IP and system centric next generation design environment. Especially meant for the next decade of ‘All-Programmable’ devices, it also accelerates the integration and implementation up to 4X. And, why now? That’s because the all-programmable devices enable programmable systems ‘integration.
There are system integration bottlenecks, such as design and IP re-use, integrating algorithmic and RTL level IP, mixing DSP, embedded, connectivity and logic, and verification of blocks and “systems”.
There are implementation bottlenecks as well, such as hierarchical chip planning, multi-domain and multi-die physical optimization, predictable ‘design’ vs. ‘timing’ closure, and late ECOs and rippling effect of changes.
Vivado accelerates productivity up to 4X. The design suite elements include an integrated design environment, has a shared scalable data model, is scalable to 100 million gates, and debug and analysis. It shares design information between implementation steps that ensures fast convergence and timing closure. This enables highly efficient memory utilization. Also, it is scalable to future families, that are greater than 10 million logic cells (100 million gates) and enables cross-probing across the entire design.
Vivado also enables packaging designs into system-level IP for re-use. You can share IP within your team, project or company. Any 3rd party IP is delivered with a common look and feel. You can re-use IP at any point in the implementation process. The IP can be source, placed, or placed and routed.
Moshe Gavrielov, president and CEO, Xilinx Inc. was in Hyderabad, India to inaugurate Xilinx India’s new, expanded India site at Hi-Tech city. The new Hyderabad site is a 131,000 square-foot office building — more than 2X the size of the previous site. It is equipped with engineering labs for end-to-end development and has a larger, energy-efficient data center. It also has facilities for customer and employee events.
This site is Xilinx’s largest R&D centre outside of US headquarters. Pivotal to record-fast delivery of 28nm technologies, it has a stellar worldwide technical support team. Xilinx has been committed to be the first to process nodes. It is pioneering 3-D IC technology and leading edge processing sub-systems. It is also offering programmable analog/mixed signal solutions as well as system to IC tools and IP to enable silicon.
Gavrielov said that Xilinx’s business drivers have been the programmable imperative, relentless system integration and an insatiable intelligent bandwidth. The programmable imperative has further accelerated. For instance, 28nm = 2X 45nm cost. Insatiable bandwidth has now expanded to Latin America. It is said to be almost 2x the size of the US market. There has been 20 percent growth in mobile subscribers and 318 percent growth in Facebook users.
There has been insatiable bandwidth across India as well, while bandwidth is also said to be growing in Africa. Some of the trends driving insatiable intelligent bandwidth include extreme bandwidth – which has seen 5X growth in five years, smart vision, ubiquitous computing and embedded security. Read more…