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.
Freeing FPGA Implementation from the Hardware Designer's Grip
Over the years, there have been many attempts to make FPGAs easier to use, and most of them now occupy the footnotes of FPGA history. So when I got a note from Stéphane Monboisset introducing me to a new FPGA design tool called QuickPlay from a company called PLDA, I was about to send a polite, "Thanks, but no thanks," when I remembered where I had last met Stéphane. It was when Xilinx was launching Zynq, and he was very successfully handling the European aspects of the launch, including the press conversations. The fact that he had moved from Xilinx to PLDA made me take it more seriously.
Synopsys and Cadence Update their Custom Tools
Ah, spring is here, and analog is in the air!
Um… yeah, that sounded better in my head than on paper. Guess it's why Shakespeare never did any odes or sonnets to analog.
Be that as it may (and being that it's May), this spring has seen analog announcements from two sources. Not sure if that's a coincidence, but it does mean we've got some analog to discuss.
The two stories are pretty different, although that would be partly because the two companies have rather different positions in the analog EDA domain. One of them - Cadence - is dominant, and the other - Synopsys - is trying to crack the Cadence nut. By anecdotal report, that's proving to be a pretty thick-hulled nut.
OrCad and Allegro Speed Up Board Design
The PCB Design tool race is perhaps the most stable and long-lived competition in all of electronic design automation. Since at least the 1980s, commercial tools have fought to own the screen of board designers as they convert ideas to schematics to metal traces etched into a substrate. Through all of those decades, the basic process has always been the same. Craft a schematic drawing with components from a library, verify that the thing will probably do what you intended, and create a board layout that physically hooks the parts up the way you specified.
Board design tools have never seen the kinds of explosive market growth - or the dramatic revolutions in methodology - that other areas of EDA have experienced. Where chip design went through waves of revolutionary change from schematic to language-based design to high-level specification, the level of design abstraction in PCB design has remained remarkably stable.
Food Trucks, Art Shows, and Design Automation
What do algorithmic art, food truck fare, and EDA software have in common? This year's Design Automation Conference! In this week's Fish Fry, we get a special sneak peek into the year's biggest EDA event with DAC Chairman Chuck Alpert. Chucks gives us the lowdown on all of the coolest events at the expo this year (Austin food trucks on the show floor?!), the details of the inaugural DAC art show and super cool keynotes (soccer playing robots?!), and much more. Also this week, we take a closer look at how a unique collaboration between Posterscope and NBS is hoping to stop mosquitoes dead in their tracks - one billboard at a time.
Device Packaging May be Going to the Ball
Two weeks after the three-ring circus that was embedded world (see "Embedded World Diary"), I was at another event: SEMI's ISS Europe. This was on a different scale and had a different topic. SEMI is the trade body for the companies that build the kit and supply the materials that, in turn, are used to make micro- and nano-electronics. ISS Europe (Industry Strategy Symposium) is a two-day event where members of SEMI are briefed on the trends that are going to shape the industry.
Now some of these trends, particularly the big global socio-economic issues, such as the overall economic climate and the important role of China, were discussed in “May You Live in Interesting Times".