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Why would TSMC, the world's largest foundry, care enough about electronic system-level (ESL) design to include it in a reference flow? In the short video clip embedded below, Ashok Mehta, senior manager of system verification and software architecture at TSMC, explains why and how his company worked with Cadence to develop the ESL portion of TSMC Reference Flow 12.
Here's a bit of background. In 2010 TSMC announced its Reference Flow 11, which broke new ground by extending TSMC's Open Innovation Platform to system-level design. Cadence worked with TSMC on high-level synthesis and on a "refine and reuse" verification methodology that allowed the reuse of models and testbenches at different levels of abstraction. In Sept. 2010 I blogged about what Cadence and TSMC learned from Reference Flow 11.
In June 2011 TSMC rolled out Reference Flow 12, which also included ESL in addition to other technology areas. While Reference Flow 11 was aimed at the block level, Reference Flow 12 extends to the virtual platform level. Using the Cadence Virtual System Platform, it shows how to build a virtual platform, develop a software application, boot Linux, and estimate power. The reference flow includes a migration path that goes from TLM all the way to RTL.
Interviewed in an Industry Insights blog post about the ESL portion of Reference Flow 12, Mehta noted that one of TSMC's motivations is to enable customers to get early power estimations. "Power is the center pole, and everything else surrounds it," he said.
In the video clip, Mehta notes that "the current RTL centric methodology is clearly not working. We must raise the abstraction level from the RTL to the system level to address increasing complexity, and also reduce the time to market." He discusses the reference flow and the tight collaboration that made it possible, and explains TSMC's motivations.
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I think the ESL portion of Reference Flow 12 shows that TSMC is an exceptionally forward-looking foundry. But then, you don't remain an industry leader without leading the way when paradigms shift.