Changing design methodologies is much like changing the engine of a jet airplane mid-flight, according to David Black, ESL practice lead at XtremeEDA. So what's the best way to step up to electronic system level (ESL) design? The key is developing the right models for the right users, Black said.
Black spoke at the first of a series of System Realization webinars, each of which features a Cadence System Realization Alliance partner. In the Sept. 8 webinar, entitled "XtremeEDA: The Importance of a Complete Methodology for ESL," Black outlined a straightforward and practical approach to ESL for newcomers. He also talked about some of the benefits experienced by XtremeEDA customers.
XtremeEDA, a provider of ASIC and FPGA design services, has considerable experience helping customers with ESL modeling, virtual platforms, high-level synthesis, and verification. While only briefly mentioned in this webinar, the company also has an interest in bringing agile software development methods to SoC design, a topic I wrote about in a previous blog.
RTL designs are getting so complex they're impossible to manage, Black said. How bad? "A short while back, I encountered a customer with a two foot stack of documentation for their design," he said. "I knew one thing for certain - there were several errors in that document."
With ESL, he noted, you start with an abstract model that's available very early, allowing for significantly faster software and hardware development. Black said XtremeEDA customers have been able to:
It's All About Models
While there are many tools and disciplines within ESL, "it's all about models," Black said. "The productivity gain in ESL is due to effective modeling and reuse." Specifically, he pointed to three imperatives: choose the right levels of abstraction, build reusable models, and make those models easy to use.
Choosing the right abstraction level for a model can be difficult, given that different engineering groups have different needs. Software developers want very fast functional models with little timing detail, while hardware teams need synthesizable models. Verification models need to work across multiple abstraction levels. Most teams lack ESL modeling expertise, and that's where a services provider like XtremeEDA can make a big difference.
"With your models firmly in hand, we can jointly put together virtual platforms that provide architectural analysis and help solve early software design problems," Black said. "Done correctly, one model will address both timing accuracy and simulation speed." XtremeEDA also helps customers apply system-level validation throughout the design flow.
Where to Start?
An audience member asked where to start if a design team cannot adopt a complete flow all at once. "If you try too big a change at once, you may set yourself up for failure because there are too many variables," Black said. "You need to understand your biggest problem in the design flow. When we work with customers, we start in one place and expand."
Can you change a jet engine mid-flight and still have a smooth landing? From this webinar, it appears the answer is "yes."
An archived version of the XtremeEDA webinar is available. Remaining webinars in the System Realization series include the following. To register, click here.
Sept. 22 - Imperas: Breaking New Ground in Embedded Software DevelopmentSept. 29 - Calypto: Application of Sequential Analysis for ESL Methodology Adoption