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Microcontrollers (MCUs) have become the backbone of embedded designs and are fueling the design of various applications. Their importance cannot be overstated, as they offer an enormous opportunity for chip manufacturers. It is a fact that the MCU market is projected to reach a staggering USD 60 billion by 2030, making it a highly lucrative industry.
Courtesy: Precedence Research
In today's fast-paced technological world with a vast array of applications, there is a wide variety of MCUs to choose from, each with its own unique peripheral and memory requirements. These variations of peripherals and memory make it challenging for chip designers to fine-tune the synthesis and place and route (PNR) recipe for each MCU. But fret not, as there is a solution to this conundrum. At CadenceLIVE India 2023, Texas Instruments (TI) revealed that incorporating Cadence Cerebrus technology helped them improve their PPA and critical design area by 4.4% and decrease violating paths by 26 times. This led to a one-week decrease in manual effort for timing Engineering Change Order (ECO) cycles. Moreover, Cerebrus demonstrated noteworthy enhancements in a flat system on chip SoC, even with constrained physical boundaries, enabling them to push architectural limits within a tight timeframe. Despite frequency push, they maintained a 7.37% gain in the standard cell area.
The increasing density and reduced die sizes pose many challenges. Before getting into the details of the solution and results, let's have a quick look at the SoC timing closure challenges being faced by chip designers.
All these issues happen in parallel, making the time closure, synthesis, and PNR completion very difficult in this tight and restricted schedule. This is where Cadence Cerebrus becomes a game changer; the AI-based self-learning tools offer the best results based on cost as provided by the end user.
TI mentioned that Cadence Cerebrus demonstrated significant power, performance, and area (PPA) improvement in flat SoC, which is macro-dominated with restrictive physical boundaries, pushing architecture limits with a tight schedule. Cadence Cerebrus deployment provided TI with a unique solution to address PPAS improvement, which is otherwise not possible through the regular flow. Below are some use cases, as TI demonstrated, to showcase the area and performance improvements achieved by leveraging Cadence Cerebrus.
TI considered a device with the below details and numerous placement concerns for the macros and I/Os
During the "cold start" on a trial RTL with macro list complete 95% of RTL and constraints in place with acceptable base timing closure. It took 22 days to complete, with a 4.2% area gain. This model file was used as input for “warm start” on the next RTL release, resulting in an area gain of 4.5%, but it took 18 days to complete. TI used the “replay” feature of Cerebrus using the best scenario from the "warm start" to get the same benefit offered by “warm start” with a cost of just 10 hours runtime compared to the “base run”!
Also, leveraging Cadence Cerebrus TI achieved direct improvement in utilization with a 3.5% reduction in density and reduction in hotspots, leading to reduced DRCs. Further, they were able to achieve:
For TI, timing and performance are key measures, so they considered macro-dominated SoCs with more than 160 macros. TI deployed Cadence Cerebrus for performance improvement in this timing-critical SoC with:
The Cadence Cerebrus “cold start” was deployed initially with an 8% area gain. TI designers observed that both "base" and Cadence Cerebrus timing are met comfortably, resulting in the increased system clock frequency by 5 MHz. It resulted in a positive TNS shift in the 5Mhz frequency push experiment using the “warm start” in a design that is 2X the size of test case 1. TI designers could sustain a 7.37% standard cell area gain despite the frequency push.
Also, they noticed a direct improvement in utilization and a reduction in hotspots, enabling faster DRC closure.
Cerebrus demonstrated significant PPAS improvement in flat SoC, which is macro-dominated with restrictive physical boundaries, pushing architecture limits with a tight schedule.
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