Synopsys Announcements at ITC Time
One of the notable skills repeatedly demonstrated by director Robert Altman was the ability to take a number of smaller stories and knit them together into a larger story. You know, one narrative that pulls the distinct seemingly-unrelated bits together into a larger truth.
Today, we’ve got a few – 3, to be specific – little stories. How to weave them together? What’s the common theme? Well, test, for one. But that’s a blah theme – on reserve in case there’s nothing else.
Cadence Tensilica Vision P5 Lets the Light In
The Internet of People has cameras - literally billions of them. They are in smartphones, laptops, tablets, WiFi devices - it sometimes seems they’re watching our every move. This incredible volume of information is then (somewhat) intelligently analyzed, edited, and moderated by the vast visual computing power of the enormous array of human brains behind these cameras. The amount of computation required to filter, process, and interpret this image data is staggering. The end result is, of course, an almost infinite wasteland of cat videos on Facebook and YouTube. But video processing has higher purposes as well.
Blue Pearl Brings Sanity to Debug
We don’t need no stinkin’ FPGA debug tools! Debug tools are for those “other” engineers. You know, the ones who make mistakes.
As engineers, it’s hard to admit we’re fallible. Most of us have spent our careers, and maybe our whole lives, being lauded for our technical prowess. We pride ourselves on our ability to solve problems quickly, to design things that are robust and reliable, and to anticipate the twists and turns that the real world will throw at our creations.
That’s why I feel bad for the people at Blue Pearl Software who have to sell their tools. They have to begin the discussion at a place that’s already uncomfortable for most engineers. We don’t want to talk about our mistakes. We don’t really want to admit that we ever make them. And, on the rare occasion when we do have a problem, we try to forget about it as soon as possible. Our hindsight goggles may be 20/20 on the good stuff, but we can all be a little forgetful about our missteps.
Oh, and Ships Their First 16nm Fin-FET Zynq Device
Sure, the announcement that Xilinx is now “shipping” their first 16nm FinFET-based super-amazing Zynq UltraScale+ All Programmable MPSoCs is kinda’ a big deal. Zynq UltraScale+ is unquestionably the most capable SoC we’ve ever seen, and it is difficult to even imagine the game-changing applications that will be built with this device.
Just as a refresher, Zynq UltraScale+ is a multi-core heterogeneous computing device that includes quad-core, 64-bit, ARM Cortex-A53s, dual-core Cortex-R5 real-time processors, a Mali-400MP graphics processor, enormous amounts of advanced FPGA fabric, a hardened H.265/264 codec unit, an “Advanced Dynamic Power Management Unit” for ASIC/ASSP-grade application power management, a configuration security unit to help lock down your design, forward-looking DDR4/LPDDR4 memory interface support, and copious amounts of on-chip ultra-high-speed “UltraRAM” for buffering and so forth.
Which Designers Need to be Schooled?
A simple, straightforward EDA whitepaper recently got me asking some demographic questions. The answers say something about where analog and digital designs are being done – and where they’re coming together. (And yes – sorry, but the Internet of Things (IoT) is involved.)
Whitepapers are popular these days. Nothing new about the whitepaper concept, but how many of them get written during a given period of time (shall we call it the “whitepaper density”?) varies with the economic cycle. And the density is high at the moment.
Whitepapers can be a really useful way to get a technical message out without it sounding like marketing – if done right. You can talk about your product, unlike in an editorial article. But if you keep the tone analytical and professional, it doesn’t come across as marketing. You hold back on the, “OUR PRODUCT EFFING ROCKS” enthusiasm. More like, “Given these numbers and the trends in the industry, there’s a high likelihood that our product would be perceived as effing rocking.”
What Is a Second and How Do You Measure It?
What is a second and how do you measure it?
It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg question. Do we improve accuracy in time-keeping in response to the needs of a new technology, or do we get new technologies because we can be more accurate in measuring time?
Early rural societies didn't need accuracy much greater than morning, afternoon, dinnertime, etc. As things got more sophisticated, accuracy became more important. Urban societies required more co-ordination, and so public clocks, often with bells to toll the hour and later the quarter hour, were set up. Long sea journeys, particularly driven by the commercial and military needs of North America, drove the improvement in chronometers, where accuracy of ± 2 seconds a day was sufficient to avoid shipwreck.
Synopsys Introduces HAPS-80
Moore’s Law, Moore’s Law, Moore’s Law... Up and to the right on a log scale. More of everything forever. Constantly getting bigger, faster and better; more complex, harder to design, more expensive to build, and… way, way harder to verify and debug.
Moore’s Law can make you dizzy standing still.
One thing we have learned in the past couple of decades is that prototyping complex systems before committing to silicon is basically mandatory. And programmable logic is by far the best and most widely accepted underlying technology for hardware prototyping. For most of the history of FPGA-based prototyping, the majority of companies have either built their own prototypes from scratch using off-the-shelf FPGAs on boards they develop in-house, or with ad-hoc solutions comprised of pre-made hardware from one company, design software from other companies, and the remainder of the bits and pieces scrounged together from whatever source was available.
Transforming the Family Business
You know that old Italian restaurant down the road a ways? Mamma – that’s what we called her; no one knew her actual name – ran that place for longer than anyone can remember. The recipes were secret. The books were… well, we don’t ask about the books. Money comes in, money goes out, shuddup and eat yer gnocchis, okay? Somehow, the bills got paid and the employees got paid and the customers kept coming.
And then something happened to Mamma. And the one person holding the whole thing together was no longer there to hold everything together. And now what happens? Folks know how to go on autopilot, so the plates of pasta keep coming, but sooner or later either Mamma’s secrets must all be unearthed or everyone simply has to find a new way. And that new way should learn from the challenges that arise when too much of the business is transacted inside the mind of one individual.
A review of "Moore's Law: the Life of Gordon Moore"
More years ago than I want to think about, I expressed interest in a PR job at Intel. In a preliminary meeting, things were going well until I was asked how I dealt with confrontational situations. My reply, that I worked hard beforehand to make sure that the need for confrontation didn't arise, was clearly the wrong answer, and so - probably just as well - I never worked for Intel. After reading Moore's Law: the life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley's quiet revolutionary, I now know why this was an important question.
Gordon Moore is the only widely known name from the founding fathers of the silicon age. This is in the main because of Moore's Law, which is misunderstood and misquoted daily. And, unlike many of the others of the founding fathers, he is still alive and the company he founded is still a major (if not the major) player. So a biography of a living legend should be more than welcome.
Searching for RTL Answers with Blue Pearl
In this week’s Fish Fry we’re looking for pearls in the the deep waters of EDA. My guest is Scott Bloom from Blue Pearl Software. Scott and I chat about RTL debugging with formal technology, multi-trace technology, and what it’s like to crash land a plane and survive. Also this week, we investigate some serious power-related issues that your signal integrity tool may not be equipped to handle.
Gowin Debuts New FPGA Line
Let me guess, you’ve never heard of Gowin Semiconductor? You have a lot of company. Gowin, based in Guangdong, China, has been operating quietly for only the past 20 months. Now, they are announcing their - wait, what? SECOND FPGA family? Wow, that’s fast. Most FPGA startups take years to announce their first attempts.
Maybe we should step back for a second and survey the scene here.
Gowin, backed by Chinese private investors, has R&D in 3 Chinese cities: Shanghai, Jinan (Shandong), and Foshan (Guangdong). They have a wholly owned US subsidiary - Melody Semiconductor, LLC, that provides marketing and other consulting services. Their first device family, GW2A, was launched earlier this year. GW2A is a mid-range FPGA family with four devices ranging from 21K to 98K LUTs.
FinFETs and the New Age of 3D ICs
It’s time for the FinFET rubber to meet the road. In this week’s Fish Fry, we look into the issues surrounding FinFET design today. My guest this week is Swami Venkat (Synopsys) and we chat about FinFET adoption (or lack thereof), the specific needs of FinFET design from an EDA point of view, and timing analysis in FinFET designs. Also this week, we check out how and why performance-per-watt will play an increasingly larger (and more important) role in our FinFET designs.
EDA, Big Data, and Where We Go From Here
Big data: can’t live with it, can’t do anything without it. In this week’s Fish Fry, we look at the growing challenges and opportunities of big data in EDA. My guest is Michael Munsey (Dassault Systemes) and we discuss the future of big data and analytics in EDA, where the biggest big data pain points can be found (and how design tools can help), and why there are so many musicians in electronic engineering. Also this week, we celebrate a kickstarter campaign that brings monthly subscription box services to a whole new “maker” level.
Is the Future All One Thing?
Sometimes, while wrapped up in the day-to-day minutia of technology trends, we can lose sight of the big, slow movements. Underneath the fast-paced, frenetic world of next-node Moore’s Law chaos are some giant trendline tectonic plates - slowly sliding, shifting along fault lines that are barely visible in our normal tech lives.
Let’s fire up our future-facing seismometers and see what electronic bastions are poised to slide off into the ocean when the next “big one” hits.
For the past thirty years, there has been extreme diversity in chips and in chip makers. We have processor companies making processors, of course; memory companies, microcontroller companies, FPGA companies, analog companies, RF companies, interface companies - every specialized type of chip hosts a mini-market of semiconductor specialists, competing for points of market share in their own little tightly-walled technology arena.
Silicon Cloud, IBM Give It a Go
Four years ago, EDA in the Cloud was cool. Since then, it seems to have, well, cooled off. Until recently: it’s once more showing signs of heating up in an attempt to become cool again.
Cloud computing has always been problematic for EDA. Anything requiring the transfer of company jewels into unknown hands has too often been a deal breaker. The noise made by Synopsys and Cadence several years ago has noticeably subsided. OneSpin added a cloud capability, but only by promising not to send design information into the cloud – only abstracted proof requests.