In the last few years, I have talked with many companies and analysts and consistently heard that system integration time is becoming one of the key challenges in system development. Many companies spend 50% of their total development cycle on system integration and bring-up. This blog will describe the key challenges customers face today, and will refer to a new Cadence approach and offerings to address them.
Post-Silicon System Integration and Bring-Up
The flood of application-driven devices forces semiconductor and system companies to embed multiple processors and millions lines of code into their devices. We (the consumers) demand new products with enhanced capabilities and shorter development times. Many of the system companies are still using silicon prototyping boards as the main vehicle to integrate their environment. Obviously, this approach creates major risk for them, since any major hardware change found at this phase requires board and silicon iterations, not to mention that debug at the lab using silicon prototyping is painful.
The days of getting first silicon as the key goal are over. The desire of any electronic company is to minimize the time from silicon prototyping to volume, and the first step to get there is to minimize the time to first working silicon with first working software. The final system integration phase is mostly done when your channel (the marketing organization, distributors, retailers and others) is making the final preparations for product launches. Accurate predictability for the release date at this phase is very critical for the project. Any iteration at this phase can cause significant delays in product introduction and as a result could cost tens of millions of dollars (see the chart below).
Source: IBS 2010
System companies need to use hardware-aware software development tools that allow early software development and testing of the full system. The tools need to support interactions with the semiconductor companies, and therefore enable them to start and validate their product pre-silicon.
Pre-Silicon System Integration and Bring-Up:
In order to mitigate the system integration risk and reduce post-silicon system integration time, semiconductor (and system) companies need to use hardware/software platforms at the pre-silicon phase. They also need to start to interact with their customers (the system companies), share some of these platforms with them and create a handshake process that will allow them to discover and fix quickly potential hardware software issues early in the design phase.
Unfortunately, there is no single product that can optimally serve all system development design phases. Each phase requires a different platform optimized for the specific task, and therefore a comprehensive set of platforms is required. Many of the bring-up tasks as you migrate from one platform to another are very similar -- however, users were forced in the past to manually create their own scripts and "re-invent the wheel" as they moved into a new design phase. Customers would like to re-use their environment including many side files, compile, debug, verification IP, real-world interfaces and the preparation work they have done as they migrate from one level of abstraction to another or one design phase to the next one.
Tight connections among pre-silicon system development platforms and the ability to use standards and plugged-in third-party tools are required. Finally, it is important to create these platforms in a way that allows hardware and software developers to interact, and therefore addresses their scalability needs in terms of capacity, performance and affordability for volume distribution.
The Cadence System Development Suite (illustrated below) introduced this week addresses many of the system challenges mentioned above with the goal to reduce both pre-silicon and post-silicon bring-up and integration time by up to 50%. Please visit us this week at CDNLive! EMEA in Munich or at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose to see demonstrations of the new hardware/software platforms and the integrated solution we have introduced.