Magma's Cobra


During its third quarter earnings call at the end of January Magma CEO Rajeev Madhavan, said “During the next several quarters we expect to announce new products that will further enhance our leadership over our competitors and enable us to continue that growth.” He went on to describe the Cobra project that would bring to market tools for statistical timing, interconnection synthesis, signoff timing analysis and design rule checking and layout versus schematic.

On April 4, 2005 Magma announced the availability of its next generation of design software. The products resulting from the Cobra project - which comprise Magma's 2005.03 release - include both new products and enhanced capabilities to existing Magma software, such as Blast Create, Blast Fusion, Blast Noise and Blast Plan Pro.

On April 11, 2005 Magma announced the availability of Blast DFT, its advanced test solution. Blast DFT is fully integrated within Magma's RTL-to-GDSII flow and provides comprehensive design-for-test methods including full scan, TAP and Boundary Scan insertion, Memory BIST (MBIST) and Logic BIST (LBIST).

I recently had an opportunity to speak at length with Premal Buch, General Manger of the Design Implementation Business Unit responsible for Blast Fusion products and derivatives (Prototype, Power, Rail, Noise, …). This is one of Magma's four business units. The other three are Logic Design (the front end products), Silicon Signoff (analysis products - Quartz Time and Quartz RC), and Physical Verification (the Mohave technology - Quartz DRC/LVS).

In describing the Cobra initiative he said they had been looking for the past one and half years at 65 nm challenges and at what it entails for them from an EDA toolset point of view. They have had about half of their R&D focused on new projects specifically targeted for this Cobra release. The effort was based in part on key acquisitions. He explained that Magma's strategy with respect to acquisitions was not to acquire a major established company with mature tools out in the market. It has always been small startups with initial technology which has been brought in. Considerable effort is then required to bring the product to fruition within the Magma framework. For example DFT has been done by a set of people who came to Magma via a couple of acquisitions of 2 to 3 to 4 person companies (VeraTest in 2002 and PDAT in 2003). Most of the work was done inside Magma. The initial seeding was outside but most of the technology has been done within the Magma framework. Another example is Mohave. Mohave was acquired very early in its infancy stage when it was just a handful of developers working on pre-alpha code. They have taken that from that stage now to a point where we are rolling it out with major foundries and partners.

The highlights of the Cobra release are
- Unified synthesis for multiple IC platforms; synthesis from FPGAs to structured ASICs to standard cells
- Getting DFT (Design-for-test)integrated over RTL to GDSII solution
- New tools for signoff analysis and extraction. The first commercially available tool for statistical analysis
- New advances in the implementation flow to handle some of the very difficult challenges you have doing routing which we are calling Interconnection Synthesis.
- The next generation DRC/LVS (design rule checking/ layout-versus-schematic) architecture
He expanded on each item.

Unified Platform Synthesis:
We have added synthesis for FPGAs and structured ASICs on top of our RTL to GDSII standard cell placement and route flow. For example, for structured ASICs have cells with very specific structures and we use our regular synthesis technology for that. However, instead of regular placement we have a special technology for placement which is more like a mapping problem than a placement problem and then we have the traditional router. For FPGAs both synthesis and the placement mapping problem are different but the routing problem is somewhat similar with very specific resources.

With Unified Synthesis on multiple platforms users can keep the same flow as they go from a prototype solution to a full volume production solution. That's really the benefit of this. The overall flow of synthesis (logical synthesis, physical synthesis, clock, placement and routing) essentially remains unchanged. You can use the same environment, the same set of scripts for very different architectures. We believe that Magma is the only vendor providing a solution which is unifying all these platforms.

Integrated DFT:
Our RTL front end flow is blazingly fast. We are getting to a point where many of our customers were spending more time using third party DFT tools and trying to converge with them. Many of these tools have a major impact on the physical implementation in terms of placement and routing resources. We were getting to the point where going outside the tool to do DFT and then coming back in was just not an efficient option. With this release we have the Blast DFT product which is fully integrated into our RTL to GDSII flow and handles full scan, TAP and Boundary Scan insertion, memory BIST (built-in self-test) and logic BIST. All of that is built into our physical implementation solution.

Signoff in the loop:
Magma has had a full fledged signoff quality analysis tool set in its system for some time. But we never really launched these as separate standalone tools. This was good enough for placement and routing purposes. Up until now our customers were using a different set of tools to sign off finally on the design. Our customers have told us that the discrepancies between the signoff tools and implementation tools and the pain involved in reconciling them is getting to the point where it is just not manageable. There are a lot of people who are using our implementation flow. When they get to the final router result, they go to a separate signoff tool and there are discrepancies. It is not a case of their being not more or less accurate but that different tools behave differently. Consequently there has been a shift in the thinking in the industry. A few years ago people used to say that we really require separate tools for implementation and signoff to make sure that one is checking the other. Now we have reached the point where everyone is looking for a single engine that is doing both implementation analysis and signoff processes simply because the effects of implementation and analysis are too closely intertwined to have them separate.

In the last 18 months we've added a lot of high accuracy features to our analysis system to bridge that gap between placement and route quality and true signoff quality. We are at the point where we think we are now closer to gold standards like Spice and Quick Cap than any of the existing tools out there. There is the additional benefit that it is built into the implementation system so that if you are doing a placement and route flow with Magma, when you are done, you have a result that is signed off for timing and extraction by construction. We call this signoff in the loop. Instead of doing an implementation flow to close timing and then going to a separate signoff system, we believe that you should be signing in the loop itself so that the signoff activity becomes more like a checkpoint exercise.

We are launching Quartz Time and Quartz RC, our timing analysis and extraction products, as part of that flow. The idea is that layout engineers and chip integrators who are using the implementation flow are signed off by construction but you might have standalone engineers that are just doing verification tasks. They verify what the other guys have done. For them we have launched standalone Quartz Time and Quartz RC tools which are exactly identical to the analysis engine that is inside Blast Fusion. So while we do have tools for people who want to do analysis only and don't have a need for the implementation functionality, these are identical by construction. We are not talking about two tools which correlate very well. We are talking about the same identical engine both as an independent tool and as part of an implementation flow. That is signoff in the loop ecosystem, a tool for verification engineers standalone and a tool built into the implementation flow for the designers.

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