Friday, November 30, 2012

Sonics in TSMC's Soft IP Alliance 2.0 beta program

Milpitas, USA-based Sonics Inc. recently participated in TSMC’s Soft IP Alliance 2.0 beta program. Driving high quality soft IP eases customer integration and expedites the time-to-market.

Sonic's role in TSMC beta program
Speaking on the beta program and Sonics' role, Frank Ferro, director of Product Marketing, Sonics, said: "TSMC's Soft IP kit 2.0 beta program is part of TSMC’s Open Innovation Platform program that creates a complete ecosystem for customers with the overall goal of shortening design time. This is done by providing a large catalog of partner provided IP that is silicon-verified and production-proven.

For vendors like Sonics, TSMC has extended this ecosystem to include Soft-IP (IP not designed for a specific process, but delivered as RTL). The program allows Soft-IP partners to access and leverage TSMC's process technologies to optimize power, performance and area for their IP.

IP cores are checked through TSMC’s foundry checklist to ensure the customers have optimized design results with fast IP integration built into their design. This flow also facilitates easy IP reuse for subsequent designs. The soft IP Kit beta 2.0 program is an extension of the current program through implementing additional quality checks, improving results and making the flow easier for customers to use.

There are several advantages to Sonics as a participant in this program. First, customers of TSMC will have access to Sonics IP through TSMC’s IP library. Given TSMC’s strong market share, this will allow Sonics IP to be visible to a large customer base. In addition, TSMC’s customers will feel securing using Sonics IP because they know that it has been put through a rigorous series of IP checks that meet the highest quality standards. It also allows Sonics early access to TSMC’s process libraries, allowing Sonics to optimize performance and area for each IP product.

So, what can the TSMC's Soft IP Kit 2.0 do? How does Sonics enhance its capabilities? The Soft IP Kit 2.0 provides a specific RTL design flow methodology and hand-off which includes: lint (RTL coding consistency), clock domain crossings (CDC), power (CPF/UPF), physical design (routing congestion), design for test (DFT), constraints and documentation.

Using this flow enhances Sonics IP quality and reliability because many RTL errors can be caught at an early stage. As mentioned above, this flow ensures lowest power and best performance of the IP for a given process node.

Atrenta SpyGlass improves packaging
There is a role played by Atrenta SpyGlass. According to Ferro, Atrenta SpyGlass is the tool used to run all the tests. The flow was developed to TSMC’s standards and implemented by Atrenta.  Given Sonics strong relationship with TSMC and Atrenta, we were invited to be a beta partner using our IP to test the new flow. A number of companies do participate in the program, although only Sonics has announced participation in the beta 2.0 program to date.

This tie up with Atrenta will likely improve IP packaging. As part of the overall flow, the final step, after all basic and advanced IP checks, is IP packaging. This step includes providing the IP with information on the design intent, set-up and analysis reports. Again, this is done using the SpyGlass tool from Atrenta.

This IP packaging was available to customers in the past via the Soft IP 1.0 program. The attraction of this type of IP packaging is a result of the growing number of IP cores being integrated into complex SoCs. As the number of third party IP grew, the need for a better, broader methodology was developed.

Better ways of IP integration
Finally, what else is Sonics working with TSMC and what does it means for SoC designers in future?

Ferro said: "There is no specific program we are working on with TSMC that I can mention other than the fact that with SoC complexity continuing to grow, IP, EDA and manufacturing companies need to work together to ensure that our customers can bring their chips to market. At Sonics, we are continually looking at better ways to perform IP integration and are focusing on system IP.

"System IP includes on-chip communications networks, which connect all the IP in the system, test and performance analysis tools, memory subsystems, power management, and security. These IP blocks are essential to the overall SoC design due to the impact for all parts of the design."

As a result of massive function integration, the SoC world is now multi-core. The number of cores on each SoC is increasing dramatically as designers add more and more functionality in pursuit of the ever-enhancing user experience. According to Semico, designs in 2013 will have an average of almost 90 different IP cores. The graph shows projected growth in the number of SIP blocks per design.

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