SPICE has got to be one of the oldest tools still being used by designers. So you might expect it to be a mature market, with a few well-established tools battling for the best performance/capacity and/or accuracy (and occasionally even collaborating).
In fact, it’s typically been more about “or” than “and,” as there are generally two SPICE camps: the fast, high-capacity versions that are “good enough” for everyday repeated use as you explore design options, and sign-off-quality versions that are more accurate, but take longer to complete and can’t handle as large a design.
The tradeoffs between the fast/big and accurate versions are usually about simplifying assumptions and models and such. Parallel execution has also helped, although it’s entirely possible that long-in-the-tooth engines were not designed for effective parallelization.
So ProPlus has announced a new SPICE tool, NanoSpice, that leverages its BSIMProPlus high-accuracy engine for analysis of large designs with quick turnaround. They claim they can handle designs of 50-100 million elements 10-100 times faster than competing “traditional” approaches (many of which can’t complete the larger designs in ProPlus’s benchmarking suite).
While they have made some improvements to the performance of the underlying engine, they give most of the credit to parallelization, which scales relatively well (depending on the design – 24 cores giving 8-12x speed-up on most of their examples, with a multiplier design actually achieving around 20x). But what they underscore with this is that it still uses the model that BSIMProPlus uses, suggesting equivalent accuracy.
They also say that they’ve got a better licensing model for using parallelism. Traditional schemes simply use more licenses as you use more machines, but they say that this was largely configured for occasional bursty usage. If everyone is always using parallelism, then you typically run out of licenses that way.
Their solution? Well, I actually don’t know. They are keeping mum about that. So they say it’s different and better; you’ll have to be the judges of that.
You can find out more in their release.