Photonics May Be the Next Big Thing
“Begone, Prince of Insufficient Light!” -- Dogbert
Imagine describing electronics, and electrons, to an 8-year-old. “Electrons are really tiny little particles that move through the wires, see? And they can turn switches on and off, and do stuff, and… uh… perform magic tricks.”
Synopsys TCAD and Coventor Start to Overlap
Astronomy bestows lavish breathless anticipation upon one of the great events of the universe: two galaxies running into (or through) each other. The thing is, it happens breathtakingly slowly – each stately galaxy spinning away, the distance between them slowly evaporating. Watching it is something of a sampling exercise: see where they are; nap for a couple of centuries. Wake, see that, yup, they’re a little closer; nap. Wake again, grab a new beer, and doggonnit if they aren’t just a wee bit closer yet. Basketball it’s not.
Well, we may have something of a similar event in play in EDA-land. Although referring simply to two galaxies isn’t quite fair: one, Synopsys, is perhaps more of a galaxy cluster to Coventor’s galaxy. To set the scene, let’s examine the status quo – the gap between the companies – and then we’ll look at each one to see how that gap is closing. And we’ll hopefully do it in a way that doesn’t involve napping.
Mentor PADS Expands Scope
For decades, the various companies who market printed circuit board (PCB) design software had it all wrong. The products available to us were defined not by what the customers actually needed, but by how the EDA companies could maximize revenues. The issue was this: smaller companies and individuals needed capable PCB design tools at a price they could afford. Giant corporations needed cutting-edge capabilities - at just about any price.
Hard IP, eFPGAs and the Moore's Law Bottleneck
What if you could have your FPGA cake and eat it too? What if you could modify your RTL post-production and have several variations of an algorithm on the same chip? Let me introduce you to eFPGAs. Yoan Dupret from Menta joins Fish Fry this week to discuss the details of Menta’s eFPGAs, the benefits of embedding field programmable gate array fabric as an IP core, and what process geometries are supported by Menta's eFPGAs. Also this week, Fish Fry welcomes Ramy Iskander from Intento. Ramy and I chat about the challenges of tools in the analog world and how Intento is working on fixing the “Moore’s Law Bottleneck”.
SeaScape for SeaHawk and Other Tools to Come
Hey there! Well it looks like you’ve just launched a full-chip analysis of your project, so… well, you’re gonna have some time on your hands. While you’re awaiting results, let’s talk about some ways that we might reduce that spare time (assuming that you’re not counting on that spare time for getting other things done – or just relaxing).
EDA has always struggled with run times. And that’s because EDA tools have a huge job, taking big designs (some might not seem big today, but in their day, they were) and identifying problems or optimizing or whatever in a timeframe that seems long when it comes to sitting around waiting for results, but is still far faster – and more accurate – than a human (or a bunch of humans) could do.
Lynx Design System Bridges the Breach Between Chip Capacity and Engineering Ability
He’s been up all night. The row of green and white soda cans marks the passage of time in a steady line across his desk. Everyone else has gone home for the day, but he’s still here, clicking "send to voicemail" on his Mom's call. Nothing, including days without sleep, is going to distract him from his looming deadline. We’ve all been there at least once or twice in our career - burning the engineering candle at both ends, struggling to do more with less. In this week’s Fish Fry, we take a closer look at the “Productivity Gap” that plagues all of us at one time or another. Andy Potemski (Synopsys) and I discuss the void between the enormous capacity of today's chips and our ability to get the design job done. We discuss how the Lynx Design System can make our system design lives a whole lot easier and why the "Productivity Gap" is more prevalent now than ever before.
ASML Ties Up Vital E-Beam Technology with Hermes Acquisition
“Knowledge Is Good.” – Emil Faber, founder of Faber College
Data is good. So more data is better. Better enough to spend $3 billion, if you’re running ASML.
Advanced Semiconductor Materials Lithography (ASML) is the huge Dutch-based corporation that makes many of the shiny clean-room machines that produce your chips. You could say the company is big in small. But bigger can always get better, right?
Austin Hosts Annual Nerdfest
Trade shows are dead. Engineers are highly rational people, and there is no rational justification for squandering valuable travel budget, time, and other business resources to fly from goodness knows where to Austin Texas in June to attend the 53rd annual Design Automation Conference (DAC). Any information one could hope to gather about the latest wave of electronic design automation software could much more easily and efficiently be gleaned from countless online and other sources. With the entire week and thousands of dollars that each attendee blows on an annual DAC pilgrimage, substantial project progress could be posted. Disrupting that critical work schedule to spend time at something as superfluous as DAC makes no sense whatsoever.
DAC revels in not making sense.
IoT, Debug, and Verification at DAC 2016
It's that time again! This week's Fish Fry is coming to y'all from the great state of Texas and the heart of the electronic design ecosystem: the Design Automation Conference in Austin. We're laying out a virtual chuckwagon of DAC bounty. For our first course, we'll fry up some IP with David Rose of UltraSoC. Next, dig in to delicious debug automation with Daniel Hansson of Verifyter. And finally, you can feast on aromatic ASIC/FPGA verification with Louie DeLuna and Krzysztof Szczur of Aldec. You'll also want to stick around for our take on the entertaining bits and bobs at this year's conference and a special News You May Have Missed.
How Do the Different Emulators Stack Up?
Late last year, Cadence released their new emulator edition, the Palladium Z1. Seems like that makes it time to take a look at the emulation environment to see where the different providers lie. We recently talked about Mentor’s application approach, but that was a higher-level discussion; we haven’t looked at the actual boxes for a long time.
Looking at the big picture, it would appear that all of the traditional major players are equipped to handle very large SoC designs, with each system having relative strengths and weaknesses. That said, this is a very tight, super-competitive space, with itchy fingers on triggers. So I’m hoping I don’t get anything factually wrong; I’ll be jumped all over. I may, however, still earn wrath since I’m not going to dub any system as the best at everything, which may run afoul of some marketing messaging.
A Sad Day in the Electronics Trade Press
Animal shelters can be heartbreaking places. Not so much because of the over-enthusiastic questionable-breed puppies bounding energetically around their cages, oblivious to the game of Russian roulette that their caretakers are playing with their lives. No, it’s the ten-year-old one-eyed dog, brought in by the owner who “just doesn’t feel like having a dog anymore” sitting despondently at the back of his cage, the wisdom of experience heavy on his brow, solemnly awaiting his inevitable fate. That’s what makes visiting these places such a gut-wrenching experience.
Today, UBM announced that it was “divesting itself” of its electronic engineering publications, including US and Asian versions of EE Times, EDN, ESM, Embedded, EBM, TechOnline, and Datasheets.com. The publications are being acquired by a subsidiary of Arrow Electronics, Inc. - a worldwide distributor of electronic components.
Schematics, Design Challenges, and More
Are you ready for a challenge? In this week’s Fish Fry, Greg Roberts introduces us to EMA’s Can You Spot the Difference Contest? where you can win a Raspberry Pi 3 by pitting yourself against OrCAD 17.2 in comparing different schematics. Also this week, Matthias Huber (ADLINK) joins Fish Fry to discuss the challenges of designing rugged IoT systems.
HSA Foundation Releases Specification v1.1
I think there's something great and generic about goldfish. They're everybody's first pet. – Paul Rudd
It’s finally happened: processors are now completely generic and interchangeable.
Might as well go home, CPU designers. There is no differentiation left to exploit. All of your processor architectures, instruction sets, pipelines, code profiling, register files, clever ALUs, bus interfaces – all of it is now as generic and substitutable as 80’s hair metal bands. Your entire branch of technology has been supplanted by some programmers.
Cadence Tensilica Vision P6
I’m told that the motivation for the iconic 1979 Saturday Night Live skit was a loosening of the US censor restrictions on broadcast television. For the first time, the word “hell” could be uttered on American TV. The story is that the Saturday Night Live writers wanted to celebrate the event by including the word “hell” as many times as possible in one skit.
Steve Martin stood staring off into the distance repeating: “What the hell is that thing?” and a crowd gradually gathers, all asking the same question.
Tackling the Challenges of the Next Generation of Automotive Design
On Your Mark! Get Set! Design! In this week’s Fish Fry, I chat with Alex Tan (Marvell Semiconductor) about the emerging trends in automotive design, the biggest challenges that we face as engineers when it comes to automotive product design, and how Marvell’s new Automotive Center of Excellence will help us make our motor-runnin’ dreams become reality. Also this week, we take a slower look at that big ol’ traffic jam called DFT and why emulation may be the key to getting DFT off the critical path on your next chip design.