Xilinx Gets All Arty

Oh, and Ships Their First 16nm Fin-FET Zynq Device

by Kevin Morris

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.

 

Boning Up on Analog

Which Designers Need to be Schooled?

by Bryon Moyer

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.”

 

Just a Second

What Is a Second and How Do You Measure It?

by Dick Selwood

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.

 

Prototyping the Next Generation

Synopsys Introduces HAPS-80

by Kevin Morris

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.

 

A New Silvaco Emerges

Transforming the Family Business

by Bryon Moyer

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.

 

Silicon Pioneer

A review of "Moore's Law: the Life of Gordon Moore"

by Dick Selwood

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.

 

The Deep Blue Sea of EDA

Searching for RTL Answers with Blue Pearl

by Amelia Dalton

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.

 

New FPGAs... From China?

Gowin Debuts New FPGA Line

by Kevin Morris

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.

 

Stacking the Die

FinFETs and the New Age of 3D ICs

by Amelia Dalton

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.

 

When Big Data Comes Callin’

EDA, Big Data, and Where We Go From Here

by Amelia Dalton

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.

 

SoC Everywhere

Is the Future All One Thing?

by Kevin Morris

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.

 

Cloud EDA Round 2

Silicon Cloud, IBM Give It a Go

by Bryon Moyer

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.

 

A View from Above

Design Enablement in the Cloud

by Amelia Dalton

In this week’s Fish Fry, we examine the future of cloud-based computing in electronic engineering. My guest Mojy Chian (CEO - Silicon Cloud) and I discuss the benefits of cloud-based computing in the engineering world, what the Silicon Cloud Design Enablement Cloud is all about, and why there is still resistance against cloud-based EDA tools. Also this week, we take a closer look at a brand new startup called Tortuga Logic that looks to solve our most critical hardware security problems with their unique technology, expertise, and design tools.

 

Making SoCs Easier to Debug

A New Technology Aims to Track Both Software and Hardware Bugs

by Dick Selwood

System debugging used to be fairly straightforward. Components were on a board, linked by tracks, and, with a 'scope and probes, you could look at signals and work out what was happening. Of course it didn't seem so simple at the time - isn't hindsight great? In time, systems got more complex, microcontrollers got more complex, and the companies building ‘scopes and other tools for hardware debugging came up with more and more sophisticated (which implies expensive) products. Digital 'scopes, logic analysers and emulators all helped engineers in their efforts to keep up. JTAG was created to provide an interface - now frequently to a PC as well as to specialist tools - as multilayer boards hid tracks, and it was then used to provide visibility of operations within the chip. The JTAG interface is now also used for software debugging, as through JTAG it is possible to control program execution, stepping through line by line, or to set breakpoints. JTAG can also be used to program flash memory. Processor manufacturers started fairly early on to provide proprietary analysis tools, and ARM, for example, provides a range of interfaces and on-chip capabilities for advanced debugging and analysis.

 

The Zen of Verification and IoT Maintenance

Finding a Holistic Way to Verify Your IoT

by Amelia Dalton

Welcome to the Fish Fry commune my friends. This week we're bringing zen to your IoT verification process. My guest is John Koeter from Synopsys and we are taking a closer look at holistic ways to verify our IoT designs. John and I discuss verification in IoT, the unique challenges of IP in IoT, and the best places for foodies in the Bay Area. Also this week, we check out how you can lower your BOM bottom line (that might not be obvious by simply looking at component costs) and we're giving everyone another chance to win an Odyssey MAX® 10 FPGA and BLE Sensor Kit.

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