Tuesday, August 29, 2006

YAST - Yet Another STA Tool

I'm initially puzzled when an EDA vendor fields a new tool to take on Synopsys PrimeTime, e.g., Incentia Timing Analysis and Constraint Management Software Adopted by Ambarella.

PrimeTime is one of Synopsys highest-quality, most trouble-free tools. The main gripe I have with PT is that it can only tell you about timing problems -- it doesn't fix them! Hence, a cottage industry of home-grown scripts and supplementary tools exists to take PT reports and generate ECOs to fix the violations.

However, some of the features in this TimeCraft tool sound pretty attractive, and give me second thoughts about assuming nothing can beat PrimeTime. Attractive features include

  • MSV support
  • "multi-task capability for multi-corner and multi-mode analysis"
  • Advanced OCV features
  • Constraint Manager

Friday, August 18, 2006

Charter for a Corporate CAD Group

I discovered another EDA-related blog, Cool Verification. Cool Verification: Creating Corporate Standards? Beware... is an excellent post outlining the considerations in creating and managing a "Corporate CAD" department.

I've taken this group's mission for granted, but my company didn't even have such a department four years ago, even as it was cranking out huge industry-leading chips. What finally pushed us to create a central group was the proliferation of derivative chips and especially the diverse chips being designed by new business units. It no longer made sense to have a few "designers with a tool fetish" responsible for creating and maintaining all the flows. Hence, a CAD department was born. The referenced post touches upon the dynamics of trying to please all groups in the face of different requirements and priorities.

Monday, August 14, 2006

EDA Confessions, Part I

After my prescient DAC trip report, I've been thinking of a couple of times in my career when I've really missed the boat on EDA companies. I have a couple of examples that I can't forget. I'll write about them one at a time. Confession is good for the soul. ;-) The first is a company that I ignored, yet in retrospect could have done a great jobs for us.
The Time
Late 1990s
Product Type
The Company
Silicon Perspective (SPC)
The Problem
My company was working with Synopsys on "Chip Architect" and "Floorplan Manager" to close timing on "deep submicron" designs. These were around 0.35 micron, IIRC. I never used Chip Architect, but my colleagues were beta testing and helping to debug it. I spent a lot of time with Floorplan Manager; it was pretty inefficient to back-annotate tons of layout data onto Design Compiler, and for DC to optimize designs in a way both effective and feasible for physical design. We were struggling to close timing on the design.
The pitch
An SPC Sales guy kept calling me, asking us to evaluate FE. He made extraordinary claims about its performance, capacity, and quality of results. He wanted us to try it on a multimedia design one of our groups was working on.
What I did
I couldn't believe that this little startup could deliver such amazing results that Synopsys and Cadence couldn't! Clearly, he was just making wild claims to get our attention. So, I never did bring him in for an evaluation.
What happened
Our design project took so long and it was eventually cancelled. And I ended up leaving the company around the same time. Later, SPC was acquired by Cadence for a large sum and today is the foundation and namesake of "Encounter", their whole family of Digital IC implementation products!
Lesson learned
Don't dismiss startups lightly! Consider them skeptically, but give them a chance if their story seems plausible.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Graphics Beginners' Guide | Tom's Hardware

Graphics Beginners' Guide | Tom's Hardware is a great introduction for understanding (and purchasing :-) today's graphics cards.

It's a series of three articles, all of which are accessible from this page.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

After the AMD / ATI merger: Will Nvidia GeForce still compete with ATI Radeon?

After the AMD / ATI merger: Will Nvidia GeForce still compete with ATI Radeon? | TG Daily is the best in-depth analysis I've seen of the implications of the AMD acquiring ATI. It lays out a number of scenarios, but the end game is far from clear.