It’s hard not to gloat when one of the biggest companies in EDA corroborates what we’ve been saying all along: Emulation is the central part of the entire design cycle.
Yes, that’s exactly what Cadence’s executives said during its most recent earnings call, as they described the early success of a newly introduced product built around emulation to support virtual co-verification and rapid prototyping.
Almost everyone in the electronics industry will agree that verification is the most challenging and time-consuming portion of the design cycle. Naturally, we’re referring to functional verification or the testing of the design functionality. And, like most verification tools, emulation is becoming more and more important. In fact, emulation is a necessary element for any complex chip design where integration and quality collide, especially below 40-nanometer or when these designs begin to hit the billion-gate threshold. Emulation accelerates the verification process, working several orders of magnitude faster than simulators, and with similar debugging capabilities.
Emulation is not used for just hardware but software development and IP, too. Hardware/software co-verification is not a new term, but it is a new challenge for all verification tools as embedded products get more and more software content.
Hardware testing alone does not cut the mustard any longer. In today’s design cycle, the hardware and software parts of an SoC need to be checked concurrently to make sure the embedded software is running on the supporting hardware according to the specification. Amazingly, software content in SoCs is growing at a rate of about 200% per year, while the hardware portion is growing at a rate of about 50%.
A hardware emulator is neatly packaged in one universal hardware/software co-verification platform and used for all sorts of designs, from computers and peripherals to embedded processors, networking, video and smartphones. They serve as a solution to runtime problems associated with event-based simulation, and those in the best-in-class category have a smaller footprint, saving space, power and infrastructure costs. Moreover, emulators execute at several megahertz, fast enough to make them appropriate for in circuit testing.
Gloating aside, electronics companies worldwide are committing portions of their engineering budgets to large-scale acquisitions of all types of verification tools, including emulation. In fact, verification has become strategically important and tools to improve speed, capacity and flexibility are highly coveted by engineering groups.
Emulation is a growth engine for EVE and a growth segment within EDA because these tools can help alleviate those critical time-to-market pressures. Several hardware emulation leaders believe that this market segment will be a good business through 2012 and beyond, and may be more resilient than other segments.