of the panel provided an update on what's happening in the embedded software
development community, which has experienced a recent wave of acquisitions by
semiconductor companies. In fact, two of the three panelists represented
recently acquired companies. These include Tomas Evensen, CTO of Wind River, acquired by Intel, and Jim
Ready, CTO of MontaVista Software,
acquired by Cavium Networks. The third panelist was Jack Greenbaum, director of
engineering for advanced products at Green Hills
was most interesting for me, however, were questions about how embedded
software and EDA companies can work together. I wrote about this issue for many
years as an EDA editor. I remember people talking about it as early as the
mid-1980s, and nobody really came up with a good answer. But with systems
companies demanding that their semiconductor partners supply much of the
software stack, the question has taken on new urgency.
EDA Consortium panel was moderated by John Bruggeman (left), and included Tomas
Evensen, Jack Greenbaum, and Jim Ready (left to right).
Like Oil and WaterEDA
and embedded software vendors sell to the same companies, but they're talking
to different groups and working in different worlds. "The DNA of EDA companies
and software companies is so different," Ready said. EDA, he said, is dominated
by transistor physics, while the software world is focused on getting hundreds of
people together to produce a common result. "Sure, we could work together to
make things work better, but my take is that it's really like oil and water in
picked up on the "oil and water" metaphor. Hardware engineers, he noted, program
in VHDL and Verilog, and use waveform analysis tools. Software engineers use
"printf" statements if there's nothing better than a GDB debugger."You can't
get a software engineer to talk to a hardware engineer," he said. "They speak
different languages." A hardware manager will pay for tools, he noted, while a
software manager will squeeze the semiconductor vendors until they provide free
Virtual Prototypes -
The Connection PointHowever,
all of the panelists noted that virtual platforms or virtual prototypes (which
they referred to as "simulation") is one place where the worlds of EDA and
embedded software do converge. Evensen noted that Wind River recently acquired
Virtutech, a virtual prototype provider. However, he noted, hardware simulation
today is way too slow for software developers, and getting hardware models is a
problem. "I think we can work together to make models work," he said.
also noted that software providers need more information about hardware
dependencies as they develop drivers and middleware. "We have to do the same
things over and over again, and it's not economical for us," he said.
need a platform that executes realistic loads with realistic I/Os," said
Greenbaum. "That's a place we can all work together at the technology level."
In response to an audience question from analyst Gary Smith, Greenbaum said
that a virtual platform with power modeling would be a very helpful tool for
concluded the panel by asking panelists what advice they'd give audience
members. Evensen's message to the EDA community was to be aware of the
consequences of small hardware changes. "If you change one bit in the hardware,
there is a ripple effect and it's a lot of work," he said.
your tools more open to software developers," Greenbaum said. "If you sell
system level design, make sure the plumbing is there for tools your customers
want to use." Ready's suggestion: before venturing into the embedded software
world, you need the "deepest possible understanding" of its dynamics.
takeaway is that hardware and software design remain two different worlds with
different dynamics, and very different average selling prices (ASPs) for
development tools. But as the importance of hardware/software integration
grows, these two worlds will inexorably be drawn closer together. We are not in
the same industry, but we are in the same ecosystem. We need to form closer
partnerships to strengthen that ecosystem on behalf of our mutual customers.
Richard, I agree that hardware and software design remain two different worlds (and that is based on experience in both electronics and EDA), they are being forced to recognize common roots through all the talk about 'systems' and taking such a perspective. But in the end, each side knows that they have to create either a piece of electronic hardware, or files of software code to run on that hardware.
The separatism has been reinforced by organization and management structures, with hardware and software design fiefdoms. While EDA and software development platforms have been made to talk to each other, it is management and process that now requires change to take advantage of those technologies working together. The Big 3 EDA firms plus Intel/Wind River (is it too soon to talk about them as a #4 in contention with Magma?) do seem to understand that (e.g., Cadence support of OVP for virtual platforms). But how long must they (still) hold their collective breath for their customers to come around?
I have wondered whether the Great Recession, forcing leaner design teams, would have had a role to bring down some of those walls.