Monday, April 27, 2009

Cadence's focus -- systems, low power, enterprise verification, mixed signal and advanced nodes

I recently had the opportunity of meeting up with Nimish Modi, Senior Vice President, Research and Development, Front-End Group, Cadence Design Systems, along with Rahul Arya, Marketing Director, Cadence Design Systems (I) Pvt. Ltd.

Modi provided a perspective on how solutions from the EDA sector help the electronic design industry improve productivity, predictability and reliability of design processes, especially verification. Design verification is the process of ensuring that a chip design meets its specifications.

According to him, today's product development ecosystem comprises of three driving forces -- productivity, predictability and reliability. "We are clearly at the core of product development. We have a very strong breadth and depth. There is a layer of solutions we have integrated with our product offerings," he added.

He highlighted that Cadence's solutions consist of integrated point tools, as well as recommended use models. It also has a very strong services offering.

Focus on five key areas
Currently, Cadence is focusing on five key areas -- systems, low power, enterprise verification, mixed signal and advanced nodes. "We have a solutions oriented approach across the board," Modi said.

On systems, it is key to focus on gaining more productivity. Modi said: "This can be done by raising the level of abstraction. The technologies available to address ESL have been around for a while, each one addressing a piece of the puzzle. The need is there for seeing tremendous improvements in that. Here, Cadence's C-to-Silicon Compiler comes in."

"The other piece is -- it has incremental synthesis capabilities. A third thing -- it is connected to the downstream flow. This is the foundation of our systems strategy," said Modi.

Coming to the systems design and verification strategy, the first component involves planning and management. "We have an enterprise manager," he added. Cadence has been a leader in the hardware assisted verification with rich VIP/SpeedBridge portfolio. It has enabled a move to TLM driven design and verification flow. Cadence also delivers unique system power exploration, estimation and optimization flow. It provides unique hardware/software co-verification capabilities (Incisive Software eXtensions) as well.

Low power strategy
On Cadence's low power strategy, Modi highlighted three components -- implementation, verification and design. "The innovation was the ability to create a power format to capture the design intent. We are committed to providing flow operability as well. We want customers to make use of advanced power management techniques," he added.

"We have the superior low power technology," he claimed, referring to the Power Forward Initiative (PFI). "Look at technology -- that is proven. The format is a means to the end. We are also working on providing more capabilities in the power exploration space. We are working under different aspects.

"You can do power analysis on the IP block; there's C-to-Slicon, which has power as a function; multi-supply voltage will be a component of our synthesis solution. All of these vectors are driving the power exploration space. Seventy percent of chips' power is determined at or before the RTL stage," said Modi.

Cadence has a closed loop verification methodology. At each stage, you can go back and make sure you can be consistent with what's there upfront.

Enterprise verification strategy
On enterprise verification, Cadence's approach is plan-to-closure. Predictability -- utilize executable plans and metrics that predict functional closure; productivity -- effectively deploy methodolgy driven multispecialist flows. with VIP and multiproduct automation; and quality -- reduce risk of functional bugs at tape-out at various project stages.

Modi added: "Our verification IP portfolio is also very critical. The depth of our portfolio is the broadest in the industry. In verfication, the actual TAM is growing. We are getting opportunities as well. Multi dimensions of enterprise verification are being taken care of by us."

Interesting that all EDA companies have focused on verification! Why now and why not earlier? Modi said: "We've been in this area for a while. We have pioneered the new approaches. The goal is: how do you know it is good enough to hit the tapeout button? Our goal is to raise the confidence of customers."

He added: "We are coming uo with a hybrid model. We are engaging with customers at this point of time. We came up with multi-language support in OVM. We have 30+ verification IP portfolios."

Trends in complex SoCs
Today, it is largely a mixed signal world. Mixed signal IC revenue has been increasing faster than the rest of the industry. It is driven by applications, including wireless devices, consumer and DTV, and automotive.

Modi said: "There is a genuine need to support natively analog behavioral models in a digital centric verification environment. Mixed signal is a larger percentagre of area and effort."

Coming down to advanced nodes, it is no surprise that Cadence definitely supports MCMM (multicorner and multimode). "It is part of our Encounter Digital Implementation System," added Modi.

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