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Archive for August 30th, 2012

When to Retool the Front-End Design Flow?

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

The following blog entry was written by Rick Eram, Director of Field and Sales Operations at Real Intent

I work with many design teams who are trying to find an optimal time point for updating and retooling their front-end design flow.  The decision is not as easy as you might think.  The various managers I meet struggle with this question, since it requires careful analysis of the existing flow, identifying any bottlenecks, and a detailed understanding of the current engineering design cost compared to a replacement toolset.  Managers also have to understand the team interactions around the world, their deliverables and responsibilities, and how designers work within each functional group.  And the switching cost must be quantified in hard numbers.

In the back-end world of circuit netlists and layouts, the decision to retool is simpler since the move to a new silicon technology node typically dictates when to change.  The benefits are obvious and much easier to quantify.  Metrics for run time, capacity, accuracy, and ease of achieving timing closure makes the job of understanding and analyzing the cost of current versus new tools much simpler to understand, quantify, and justify.  If these performance metrics in the current tool-set are degrading significantly because of greater design complexity, and the impact of multiple operating modes and statistical effects, the design team will not be successful.  A change is clearly needed.

So, how does a manager determine when to retool the front-end design flow and maximize efficiency?  Are current tools costing way too much of engineering time and not as efficient as they once were?  What is the real switching cost?  And what about the impact on verification?  Since verification is more and more intertwined with actual RTL design, a decision about a tool change must take that into account. (more…)

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