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Embedded/SoC Enablement Day was a new event at the recent
Design Automation Conference that promised to "shed light" on where embedded systems
meet hardware. It got off to a very enlightening start with a Thursday morning keynote
speech by Gadi Singer, vice president and general manager of Intel's SoC
Enabling Group. Gadi's emphasis on systems and software set the stage perfectly
for a subsequent presentation by John Bruggeman, Cadence Chief Marketing
Officer, that illustrated some of the ideas behind the EDA360 vision.
I've heard Gadi speak in the past, and he has always had
good insights about upcoming challenges in IC design. In this speech, he talked
about how SoC design is much more difficult than it was a few years ago. To set
some context, he noted how there are now hundreds of thousands of Smartphone
applications, and he talked about how "smart," networked TVs are creating a
totally different, highly interactive viewing experience for users. A TV, he
noted, is becoming a "platform for application developers."
What are the implications? "Until recently most SoCs were
single function," Gadi said. "Today the expectation is that they will be multi-function,
smart, and connected." This requires "multi source, complex software" as
opposed to a single vertical stack. Another tough requirement is the demand for
increasing performance along with very low power. Finally, SoCs now have
multiple, sophisticated subsystems, including graphics, media, communications,
"If there is one message I'd really like the EDA industry to
hear, it is the fact that we need to design systems," Gadi said. "If we design
silicon, and then make sure software can run on it, we will not create the kind
of optimized design we need. We need an environment that allows us to design
and tune software and hardware together."
Unfortunately, Gadi said, the EDA industry seems to be
focusing on revisions of existing technology. A bolder vision is needed. "We
need to see the EDA industry fully supporting this expanding universe. It's
about connected, smart systems. The envelope of design is growing very
rapidly." Needed capabilities at the "edge of the envelope" include hardware/software
exploration, high-level modeling, and "extreme" power management.
Gadi presented a mnemonic with examples of some of the
capabilities that are needed:
- HW/SW co-design; move to formal verification
- Incremental synthesis and emulation; mixed-level design
- Formal verification of boundaries between blocks
- High-level synthesis; virtual platforms
- Tools for complexity estimation and analysis
"We need new capabilities for expanding the envelope, and we
especially need capabilities around systems and software," Gadi concluded.
"It's not that EDA is not doing its job. It's that we need to look two to three
It's All About
I want to focus on the talks by Gadi Singer and John
Bruggeman in this posting, but let me briefly mention the two other
presentations in the morning session of Embedded/SoC day. Walter Ng of
GlobalFoundries talked about the challenges of advanced process nodes and the
need for broad collaboration across the supply chain. Yervant Zorian of Virage
Logic, who expertly organized both Embedded/SoC
Enablement Day and Management
Day, talked about IP scaling and the need to reduce SoC development costs.
During Gadi's talk, I was struck by how closely his message
matched the EDA360 vision paper.
That should not be a big surprise. John noted that he worked at
Intel briefly following the Wind River
acquisition, and heard Gadi's pitch.
"I believed what Gadi said so deep in my soul and so firmly
in my heart that I left Intel," John said. "I couldn't wait because I thought
the world was under transformation. I felt so strongly about it that we wrote a
paper. I called it a vision paper. EDA360 is just an articulation in Microsoft
Word of what Gadi Singer said today in Powerpoint slides."
He went on to talk about buying a Samsung 65" TV that comes
pre-packaged with applications, and thinking about what it takes to deliver
such a product. "That is not a TV, it's a network switch," he said. "How does a
car, a switch, or anything become an applications platform? You have to start
with the application. This is completely foreign to EDA. EDA says we start at
the silicon and work slowly up."
EDA is "going to have to enable an entirely new class of
technology, a new set of products and services and IP," John said. This includes
a new class of solutions sold not to semiconductor providers, but to OEMs. Some
of the capabilities will include:
John envisioned a world in which OEMs create system models
that connect to implementation, and hand those models over to fabs who can
implement the silicon. That means fabs will take on an expanded role with more
responsibility for design, verification, and implementation. It also calls into
question the role of fabless semiconductor providers, a role that will need to
The end result, John said, is that "the world will fundamentally
change." And there's money to pay the entire ecosystem, including EDA vendors
who make the adjustment to this new world. What we need to do is to "wrap our
heads around this and understand we're in an application-driven world."
I'd say that considerable light was shed at this first session of Embedded/SoC Enablement Day..
Photos by Joseph Hupcey III