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Are we at an inflection point in verification?

April 2, 2014 Comments off

synopsysAre 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.

FinFETs delivering on promise of power reduction: Synopsys

February 1, 2014 Comments off

Here is the concluding part of my conversation with Synopsys’ Rich Goldman on the global semiconductor industry.

Rich Goldman

Rich Goldman

Global semicon in sub 20nm era
How is the global semicon industry performing after entering the sub 20nm era? Rich Goldman, VP, corporate marketing and strategic alliances, Synopsys, said that driving the fastest pace of change in the history of mankind is not for the faint of heart. Keeping up with Moore’s Law has always required significant investment and ingenuity.

“The sub-20nm era brings additional challenges in device structures (namely FinFETs), materials and methodologies. As costs rise, a dwindling number of semiconductor companies can afford to build fabs at the leading edge. Those thriving include foundries, which spread capital expenses over the revenue from many customers, and fabless companies, which leverage foundries’ capital investment rather than risking their own. Thriving, leading-edge IDMs are now the exception.

“Semiconductor companies focused on mobile and the Internet of Things are also thriving as their market quickly expands. Semiconductor companies who dominate their space in such segments as automotive, mil/aero and medical are also doing quite well, while non-leaders find rough waters.”

Performance of FinFETs
Have FinFETs gone to below 20nm? Also, are those looking for power reduction now benefiting?

He added that 20nm was a pivotal point in advanced process development. The 20nm process node’s new set of challenges, including double patterning and very leaky transistors due to short channel effects, negated the benefits of transistor scaling.

To further complicate matters, the migration from 28nm to 20nm lacked the performance and area gains seen with prior generations, making it economically questionable. While planar FET may be nearing the end of its scalable lifespan at 20nm, FinFETs provide a viable alternative for advanced processes at emerging nodes.

The industry’s experience with 20nm paved the way for an easier FinFET transition. FinFET processes are in production today, and many IC design companies are rapidly moving to manufacture their devices on the emerging 16nm and 14nm FinFET-based process geometries due to the compelling power and performance benefits. Numerous test chips have taped out, and results are coming in.

“FinFET is delivering on its promise of power reduction. With 20nm planar FET technologies, leakage current can flow across the channel between the source and the drain, making it very difficult to completely turn the transistor off. FinFETs provide better channel control, allowing very little current to leak when the device is in the “off” state. This enables the use of lower threshold voltages, resulting in better power and performance. FinFET devices also operate at a lower nominal voltage supply, significantly improving dynamic power.”
Read more…

Top five trends likely to rule global semicon industry in 2014

January 24, 2014 Comments off

Rich Goldman

Rich Goldman

What are the top five trends likely to rule the semicon industry in 2014 and why? Rich Goldman, VP, corporate marketing and strategic alliances, Synopsys, had this to say.

FinFETs
FinFETs will be a huge trend through 2014 and beyond. Semiconductor companies will certainly keep us well informed as they progress through FinFET tapeouts and ultimately deliver production FinFET processes.

They will tout the power and speed advantages that their FinFET processes deliver for their customers, and those semiconductor companies early to market with FinFETs will press their advantage by driving and announcing aggressive FinFET roadmaps.

IP and subsystems
As devices grow more complex, integrating third-party IP has become mainstream. Designers recognize as a matter of course that today’s complex designs benefit greatly from integrating third-party IP in such areas as microprocessors and specialized I/Os.

The trend for re-use is beginning to expand upwards to systems of integrated, tested IP so that designers no longer need to redesign well-understood systems, such as memory, audio and sensor systems.

Internet of Things/sensors
Everybody is talking about the Internet of Things for good reason. It is happening, and 2014 will be a year of huge growth for connected things. Sensors will emerge as a big enabler of the Internet of Things, as they connect our real world to computation.

Beyond the mobile juggernaut, new devices such as Google’s (formerly Nest’s) thermostat and smoke detector will enter the market, allowing us to observe and control our surrounding environment remotely.

The mobile phone will continue to subsume and disrupt markets, such as cameras, fitness devices, satellite navigation systems and even flashlights, enabled by sensors such as touch, capacitive pattern, gyroscopic, accelerometers, compasses, altimeters, light, CO, ionization etc. Semiconductor companies positioned to serve the Internet of Things with sensor integration will do well.

Systems companies bringing IC design in-house
Large and successful systems companies wanting to differentiate their solutions are bringing IC specification and/or design in house. Previously, these companies were focused primarily on systems and solutions design and development.

Driven by a belief that they can design the best ICs for their specific needs, today’s large and successful companies such as Google, Microsoft and others are leading this trend, aided by IP reuse.

Advanced designs at both emerging and established process nodes  
While leading-edge semiconductor companies drive forward on emerging process nodes such as 20nm, others are finding success by focusing on established nodes (28nm and above) that deliver required performance at reduced risk. Thus, challenging designs will emerge at both ends of the spectrum.

Part II of this discussion will look at FinFETs below 20nm and 3D ICs.

Can 2014 be a major year for global semicon industry?


The year 2014 is expected to be a major year for the global semiconductor industry. The industry will and continue to innovate!

Apparently, there are huge expectations from certain segments such as the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable electronics. There will likely be focus on the connected car. Executives have been stating there could be third parties writing apps that can help cars. Intel expects that technology will be inspiring optimism for healthcare in future. As per a survey, 57 percent of people believe traditional hospitals will be obsolete in the future.

Some other entries from 2013 include Qualcomm, who introduced the Snapdragon 410 chipset with integrated 4G LTE world mode for high-volume smartphones. STMicroelectronics joined ARM mbed project that will enable developers to create smart products with ARM-based industry-leading STM32 microcontrollers and accelerate the Internet of Things.

A look at the industry itself is interesting! The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics Inc. (WSTS) is forecasting the global semiconductor market to be $304 billion in 2013, up 4.4 percent from 2012. The market is expected to recover throughout 2013, driven mainly by double digit growth of Memory product category. By region, all regions except Japan will grow from 2012. Japan market is forecasted to decline from 2012 in US dollar basis due to steep Japanese Yen depreciation compared to 2012.

WSTS estimates that the worldwide semiconductor market is predicted to grow further in 2014 and 2015. According to WSTS, the global semiconductor market is forecasted to be up 4.1 percent to $317 billion in 2014, surpassing historical high of $300 billion registered in 2011. For 2015, it is forecasted to be $328 billion, up 3.4 percent.

All product categories and regions are forecasted to grow positively in each year, with the assumption of macro economy recovery throughout the forecast period. By end market, wireless and automotive are expected to grow faster than total market, while consumer and computer are assumed to remain stagnant.

Now, all of this remains to be seen!

Earlier, while speaking with Dr. Wally Rhines of Mentor, and Jaswinder Ahuja of Cadence, both emphasized the industry’s move to 14/16nm. Xilinx estimates that 28nm will have a very long life. It also shipped the 20nm device in early Nov. 2013.

In a 2013 survey, carried out by KPMG, applications markets identified as most important by at least 55 percent of the respondents were: Mobile technology – 69 percent; Consumer – 66 percent; Computing – 63 percent; Alternative/Renewal Energy – 63 percent; Industrial – 62 percent; Automotive – 60 percent; Medical – 55 percent; Wireline Communications – 55 percent.

Do understand that there is always a line between hope and forecasts, and what the end result actually turns out to be! In the meantime, all of us continue to live with the hope that the global semiconductor will carry on flourishing in the years to come. As Brian Fuller, Cadence, says, ‘the future’s in our hands; let’s not blow it!’

Connecting intelligence today for connected world: ARM

November 18, 2013 Comments off

ARMARM calls the spirit of innovation as collective intelligence at every level. It is within devices, between people, through tech and across the world. We are still pushing boundaries of mobile devices.

Speaking at the ARM Summit in Bangalore, Dr Mark Brass, corporate VP, Operations, ARM, said that the first challenge was the number of people on the planet. Technology development and innovation also pose challenges.

According to him, mobile phones are forecast to grow 7.3 percent in 2013 driven by 1 billion smartphones. Mobile data will ramp up 12 times between now and 2018. Mobile and connectivity are creating further innovation.

August, a compamy, has introduced an electronic lock for doors, controlled by the smartphone. Another one is Proteus, which looks at healthcare. The smartphone is becoming the center of our world. All sorts of sensors are also getting into smartphones. Next, mobile and connectivity are growing in automobiles. Companies like TomTom are competing with automobile companies. Connectivity is also transforming infrastructure and data centers. They are now building off the mobile experience.

As per ARM, an IoT survey done has revealed that 76 percent of companies are dealing with IoT. As more things own information, there will be much more data. The IoT runs on ARM.

“There’s more going on than just what you think. IoT is not just about things. Skills development should not be an afterthought. Co-operation is critical. Solutions will emerge. All sorts of things are going to happen. Three years from now, only 4 percent of companies won’t have IoT in the business at all,” Dr. Brass added.

IoT will be present in industrial, especially motors, transportation, energy, and healthcare. Smart meters are coming in to help with energy management. There is a move to Big Data from Little Data.

Challenges in 2020 would be in transportation, energy, healthcare and education. ARM and the ARM partnership is addressing those. “We are delivering an unmatched diversity of solutions. We are scaling from sensors to servers, connecting our world,” Dr. Brass concluded.

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