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Archive for August, 2013

Semi Design Technology & System Drivers Roadmap: Part 5 – Low Power

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Andrew B. Kahng, Professor of CSE and ECE, Univ. of California at San Diego presented a paper on “The ITRS Design Technology and System Drivers Roadmap: Process and Status” at the 50th Design Automation Conference in Austin, TX.   This important review of the technology challenges that are in front of the EDA industry and what is the current status is presented here below in this fifth part of a blog series.

5. LOW-POWER DESIGN

In response to power and energy being identified as the grand challenge for the semiconductor roadmap, the Design TWG in 2011 added a Low-Power Design technology roadmap to the Design Chapter. The low-power design roadmap contains a mix of future solutions spanning electrical, functional and software realms [13]. Projected low-power design innovations include (i) frequency islands and near-threshold computing at the circuit level; (ii) heterogeneous parallel processing, many core software development tools, and hardware/software co-partitioning at the architecture level; and (iii) power-aware software and software virtual prototyping at the software level. Figure 8 shows that with low-power innovations the SOC-CP driver dissipates 3.5W (with 48.8M logic gates) in 2011. Low-power design innovations will help limit the power to 8.22W when the number of logic gates grows by more than 40x to 1995.5M in 2026.

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Building an SoC Sign-off flow

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

As SoCs become more complex, and the cost of errors grows, it becomes increasingly important that engineers ensure their work is as correct as possible as soon as possible in the design process. They cannot afford to carry errors forward from one stage to the next, where their impact is likely to grow while their causes become obscured.

This requirement is driving a shift in design exploration and hand-off to the register transfer level. Using RTL sign-off eases the integration of heterogeneous IP and makes it easier to check the way that blocks are interfacing with the host design, how clocks will cross these interfaces, power requirements, and testability. It also cuts the simulation load, especially when designs are begin exercised in a system context, which vastly increases the number of states necessary to check functionality.

Initial timing constraints and clocking schemes have to be defined to enable earlier analysis and verification. Power estimation and optimization methods are necessary to provide previews of gate-level performance. The impact of inserting test structures to ease testability has to be considered. There is some good news – working with the design at this level means that each issue can be constrained and addressed by a focused tool, rather than being taken forward to the gate level where they would interact more strongly and hence be more difficult to solve. (more…)

Semiconductor Design Technology and System Drivers Roadmap: Process and Status – Part 4

Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Andrew B. Kahng, Professor of CSE and ECE, Univ. of California at San Diego presented a paper on “The ITRS Design Technology and System Drivers Roadmap: Process and Status” at the 50th Design Automation Conference in Austin, TX.   This important review of the technology challenges that are in front of the EDA industry and what is the current status is presented here below in this fourth part of a blog series.

4. LAYOUT DENSITY A-FACTORS

In the ITRS System Drivers Chapter and Overall Roadmap Technology Characteristics, A-factors enable the modeling of unit cell areas of SRAM and standard-cell logic circuit fabrics, in terms of the M1 half-pitch, F . SRAM layout density is mainly determined by Mx pitches and poly pitch in a bulk technology. With FinFET devices, the fin pitch ( Pfin ) becomes the dominant factor for SRAM layout. On the other hand, the density of standard cells is mainly decided by the cell height (in M2 tracks) and the poly pitch. Since the 2009 ITRS, the A-factor for a 6T SRAM bitcell has been 60 sq. F, and the A-factor for a 2-input NAND gate has been 175 sq. F [10]. These values are based on various ratios between, e.g., poly, M1, and M2 layer pitches (design rules) as summarized in the left half of Table 1, as well as on the canonical layouts shown in Figures 4(b) and 5(b) [10].

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Semiconductor Design Technology and System Drivers Roadmap: Process and Status – Part 3

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Andrew B. Kahng, Professor of CSE and ECE, Univ. of California at San Diego presented a paper on “The ITRS Design Technology and System Drivers Roadmap: Process and Status” at the 50th Design Automation Conference in Austin, TX.   This important review of the technology challenges that are in front of the EDA industry and what is the current status is presented here below in this third part of a blog series.

3. KEY SYSTEM DRIVER MODELS

As noted above, the System Drivers Chapter models and projects key semiconductor product classes that create the need for continued semiconductor innovation [5–7]. The 2011 System Drivers Chapter identifies three microprocessor (MPU) drivers (high-performance (HP), cost-performance (CP) and power-connectivity-cost (PCC)) and three System-On-Chip (SOC) drivers (consumer portable (CP), consumer stationary (CS) and networking (NW)). See footnote 1. Each driver should provide impetus for specific technology objectives, e.g., the SOC-CP driver drives lower leakage (or standby) power consumption, given the severe battery life requirement of mobile devices. For each MPU and SOC system driver, the ITRS roadmaps scaling of parameters such as number of cores, number of SRAM and logic transistors, layout density, frequency and power.

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The Secret Sauce for CDC Verification

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Advanced semiconductor processes have made it possible to integrate hundreds of millions of gates of digital logic on a die. What has made this practical, however, has been the shift to block-based design, in which many large functional blocks from a variety of sources are quickly integrated into a new SoC. Without the ability to reuse design blocks, it would be impractical, and perhaps even impossible, to take full advantage of the capabilities of an advanced process in any reasonable timescale – designing all that functionality from scratch is simply too complex.

What abstraction to the block level gives with one hand it tends to takes away with the other. Even if each block can be relied upon to behave properly within its boundaries, a complex SoC design attempts to integrate and then coordinate many such blocks, despite the fact that each may have been designed by a different group using a different strategy. Each block, for example, may expect a different clock rate, may dynamically adjust its clock to match its workload, and may employ sophisticated clock-gating strategies to minimize power consumption.

How bad is the problem becoming? According to a survey last year, 32% of SoC designs underway among those surveyed employed 50 or more clock domains. SoC designers, therefore, are faced with trying to ensure that their systemic and inter-block clocking strategies work as expected, even as thousands of signals pass between tens or even hundreds of different clock domains. Add in power-management strategies that turn blocks on and off to minimize energy use, and therefore leave signals at block boundaries in undetermined states, and complex external interfaces which introduce their own clocking requirements, and the potential for errors multiplies. (more…)

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