Cadence’s Virtuoso vs. Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer!
Synopsys recently introduced the Galaxy Custom Designer, which provides a unified solution for custom and digital designs, thereby enhancing designer efficiency.
Well, this solution invariably draws a comparison with Cadence’s Virtuoso platform within the EDA industry!
That prompted me to engage Sandeep Mehndiratta, Product Marketing Group Director, Cadence Design Systems, in this discussion. We discussed a range of issues, such as how the Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer matches up with the Virtuoso, and whether designers can now design what they wish, including concepts and flows, as well as the relevance of open architectures.
For the record, a few years ago, Cadence introduced the next-generation Virtuoso custom design IC 6.1 platform, which had a major upgrade recently with the IC 6.1.3 release. This release has been production-proven with tapeouts from many customers. However, as I said, it is Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer doing the rounds in the EDA circles as of now!
Galaxy Custom Designer vs. Virtuoso
It is well known that Cadence has been the established leader in custom IC design space for decades, and has been constantly improving and upgrading technology to ensure it is providing best-in-class platform for designing today’s complex custom chips.
Mehndiratta said: “A couple of years ago we introduced the next-generation Virtuoso custom design IC 6.1 platform. This release has been production-proven with tapeouts from many customers. Some of the leading customers that have adopted the Virtuoso platform include Ricoh, National Semiconductor, Cambridge Analog Technologies Inc., Matsushita, etc.
“Synopsys has recently launched Galaxy Designer and it is unproven as yet. From what we’ve read and heard from some of our mutual customers, the competitive introduction may be attempting to replicate older custom IC technology. While the jury will probably be out for some time on this unproven tool, Cadence continues to provide a complete solution for design, verification and implementation of complex analog and mixed-signal designs, differentiated by the tight integration between the underlying technologies.”
With the advent of Galaxy, is it now safe to say that designers can finally design what they wish, including concepts and flows? Well, the answer’s not yet there! However, Mehndiratta did touch upon Cadence’s solution that is built upon decades of experience in this area and a strong eco-system made up of partners, third-party providers and foundries. Virtuoso, he added, is the most complete eco-system for designing ICs; not only with its inherent flow, but also because of its linkages to multiple tools inside and outside of Cadence.
“For many years, we have provided a consistent front-to-back flow, and over that time we have learned much about what customers need to do their designs efficiently. It is that knowledge base that we leveraged to accelerate productivity with 6.1 release couple of years back,” he added.
If that is the case, why has it taken so long for a first modern-era mixed-signal implementation solution to be in place?
He referred to Cadence’s next generation Virtuoso 6.1 introduced in November 2006, said to be the first modern, and most complete custom design solution released natively on the OA database. Productivity benefits are significant. RFIC Solutions Inc., a third-party intellectual property and design service provider, is said to have increased productivity two-fold by adopting the Cadence Virtuoso custom design platform.
Likewise, INSIDE Contactless, a fabless company and leader in contactless technology providing high-performance chipsets for secure, fast and reliable transactions with electronic identification, saved 20 percent in development time by adopting Cadence Virtuoso UltraSim Full-Chip Simulator, a component of Virtuoso Multi-Mode Simulation with a high-performance digital-solver technology, for the verification of its current and next-generation contactless and Near Field Communication (NFC) system-on-chip (SoC) designs.
He noted: “Specifically, mixed-signal design is evolutionary, not revolutionary. The concept of mixed-signal design isn’t new. People have been designing in this manner for 15+ years. What is new is the more holistic approach being taken by designers developing mixed-signal circuits. The once clear lines between analog and digital design are blurring, and now the idea of “mixed-signal” is being architected in right from the beginning.
“That is why Cadence’s AMS Designer covers transistor to system level design with a single simulation solution for complete verification. It is why Cadence has combined the power of its leading implementation platforms (Virtuoso and Encounter) to handle the implementation of mixed-signal designs.”
Given that Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer can provide a unified solution for custom and digital designs, thereby enhancing designer efficiency, how will it change/affect designing, and the EDA landscape?
Mehndiratta pointed out that Cadence had defined a unified solution long ago. “Our industry leadership in this area, and Synopsys mimicking of that solution are testaments of Cadence’s vision. Competition is good for all industries, the end-customer usually benefits. You can count on Cadence to not only remain competitive, but also retain our industry leadership in custom/mixed-signal design.”
Importance of open architecture
Let us also look at the importance of open architecture that natively supports interoperable PDKs.
Cadence also believes in open architectures. Its Design Framework II was built as an open architecture, and that’s the reason, why there are many companies that have connected (30+) to form a larger ecosystem. Whereas, the Industry Standard Framework has been tried and failed, the company maintains.
Mehndiratta said: The reason it was a failure is the same as interoperable PDKs. Building frameworks and PDKs that are based on a “lowest common denominator” principle do not provide the most optimized design flow. Instead, you are left with systems that try to please everyone and in the end are rejected as bloated beasts retarding the progress of design.”
Finally, how does Cadence propose to address the Galaxy challenge?
As expected, Cadence hopes to continue to provide customers and partners with a framework in which they can build their tools into the Virtuoso design flow in the most optimized way possible.
Also, by providing its proven and industry standard Pcell technology that takes advantage of the key features in Cadence’s design flow, thereby allowing for fast and productive design today and in the future.