Monday, July 31, 2006

2006 DAC Report

Introduction

The "hot" areas of EDA these days are Electronic System Level (ESL) and Design For Manufacturing (DFM). Indeed, there were numerous companies offering things such as SystemC design or yield-aware layout tools.

I attended DAC for one day, Wednesday. I focused on low-power and variation-aware tools, and compiled a list of companies participating in these areas. I had time to see about half the companies I identified. Below is a short summary of my impression of those companies.

Companies that Impressed

  • Azuro. Low-power clock design. They optimize clock gating and physical clock tree for low power. They claim 15-25% less power than using today's tools. This is a niche tool that is worth looking at. The most impressive thing I saw at DAC was their clock tree analysis/visualization tool. At a glance, the design can visualize the structure and quality of the clock tree. It's better than any analysis I've seen before.

  • Altos. Library characterization, including statistical effects. Their characterization system, Liberate, includes their own very fast SPICE-like engine. They claim ~10X faster than today's tools. They can generate .lib and also the latest CCS and ECSM models. They appear to have a solid grasp of what's needed for statistical characterization, and their high performance will be very welcome for that. They're working to support SSTA from Extreme DA. The founders are from CadMOS (SI tool acquired by Cadence) and seem sharp. They recently published an article in EE Times. [Note: Magma just announced an upgrade to their characterization system.]

  • Proficient. Low-power design. Intriguing. It seems like a pretty small company.

  • Prolific. Post-layout power & timing improvement. Their tool may be useful and the approach is sensible and simple (bolting onto PrimeTime). Designers could do something like this themselves, but if their tool is reasonably priced and effective, it may be worth it.

  • TSMC. They conducted a series of advanced methodology presentations. It is impressive how much they've thought through the whole methodology and worked with EDA vendors on their "Reference Flow 7.0".

Companies that Didn't Impress

Censored! I'm don't yet have John Cooley's nerve to dis companies in public. In my case, it wouldn't really be fair to opine on them after a half-hour presentation or demo, anyway.

Other Notes

  • "Power Forward Initiative" lunch hosted by Cadence. This is a consortium initiated by Cadence to develop a standard "CPF" Common Power Format description of low-power design intent. CPF would drive implementation, checking and analysis tools. Something like SDC is for timing. This may bear fruit in a couple of years, but of concern is that Synopsys is not on board. Will it be another political fight like CCS vs. ECSM? [Yes, the politics have already started with a Synopsys counter-proposal.]
  • Coincident with DAC, Synopsys announced enhancements to PrimeTime and Star-RCXT with statistical capabilities.

Best Freebie

There didn't appear to be major schwag as I remember from years ago. I remember when you could always count on Viewlogic for a bat or a hockey stick, or Altera for a soccer ball. However, one gift at this year's DAC impressed me. It was the hand-held fan from Bluespec. It appears to be your standard simple battery-powered fan. However, there are LEDs embedded in the fan blades, and when you turn it on and the fan spins, the lights spell out promotional messages for Bluespec. Pretty "cool"!

Other Coverage

2 comments:

Sandeep said...

Cool!! This post generated a lot of coffe-dispenser discussion.

Companies like Azuro and Prolific are going the Sequence path I think. Trying to optimize at post-layout. Granted, that there is a lot more timing, wireload, etc. information available there, but the disruption one may cause (power changes totally throwing timing out of whack) is too large.

What about Proficient? looks to me it is going the layout way itself (except for optimizing registers for power).

As for DFM - well it looks to me more and more as Zen. "Its a state of mind" !!

Anonymous said...

Did you see the Tensilica booth? They had a fun event, which was completely not pushy (ie no marketing guys blaring company propaganda about their configurable processors). Anyone could paint a part of a big mural at their booth. Check out the results at:

http://www.tensilica.com/company/DAC_2006.htm