Linux Lunges into the Limelight

Jeff Garrison, Director of Product Marketing at Synplicity Inc. - “We have ported most of our applications to Linux already, and expect nearly all, if not all, of our applications will eventually be ported to Linux. We are developing our applications on multiple platforms, but mostly on WindowsNT/2000. We port our applications over to Linux, Solaris, and HP-UX - and we generally release all platforms at the same time. We are clearly seeing more customers interested in the Linux platform over time. There is a small segment of users that are passionate about Linux and consider it a must, but for most it is a 'nice to have' capability. Regarding feedback from our customers on Linux - they are glad we have it, but we don't really see this feedback as being much different than that of other platforms as our applications run well on Linux.”

“We are probably spending about the right amount of resources on Linux. There does seem to be more releases per year of Linux - like Red Hat, for example - which causes additional testing of resources. Also there are many different variations of Linux (Red Hat, SuSe, Debian, Gnome, etc.), so we can't fully test all of them, but that has not been a problem to date. One irregularity with Linux is that, due to its open-source nature, licensing security is weak. While our applications run on Linux, we do require an NT/2000 or other Unix machine in the network to host the license server. Meanwhile, basically it's true - engineers love Linux, IT managers do not, and EDA is ambivalent.”

Paul McLellan, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at VaST Systems Technology Corp. - “VaST sells tools into three main spaces: SoC architects, chip designers doing co-verification, and embedded software developers. Architects and chip designers run primarily on Unix of one flavor or another, including Linux. Software developers run almost exclusively on Windows. The main challenge to running on Linux is that the GUI for our tools was written using Microsoft Foundation. But Linux users expect an X-windows flavor user-interface, so extensive changes are necessary. However, Linux has another role to play in our space since it is an operating system that can run on the virtual platform. VaST can boot a simulated microprocessor running Linux in about 10 seconds. Real-time Linux is starting to make inroads as an embedded operating system for cell phones and other systems. In the embedded market, its competition is not PC-windows but rather Symbian and WinCE.”

David Crites, Director of Sales for Zenasis Technologies, Inc. - “We are developing ZenTime on Sun and then porting to Linux. ZenTime on Sun is available now. We have a preliminary port on Linux and will be releasing it to customers next quarter. After our first Linux release, we expect the delay between our Sun and Linux releases to decrease substantially. Many customers are requesting a Linux version, some require it. Since getting our first product out is most important, we have spent just enough time on Linux to understand the challenges and benefits of a Linux release. I'd say engineers seem to love Linux; IT guys seem to love what they know best; and EDA vendors, like us, love the price/performance potential of Linux, but appreciate the beaten path available on Sun.”

Closing comments on migrating to new technologies

Karen Bartleson, Director of Quality and Interoperability at Synopsys, spent a few minutes providing a large EDA vendor's perspective on migrating to Linux and migrating from 32-bit to 64-bit machines.

“Synopsys introduced its first Linux product three years ago, in 2000. Currently, we support a 32-bit version of Linux. The 32-bit machine is one of our primary platforms and our products are delivered on it. Both HP and Sun are very important mainstream environments for us. However, today we are supporting Red Hat Version 7.2, and we also support 7.3. Meanwhile, we're paying attention to what's coming in Red Hat 8.0 and 8.1. Red Hat doesn't provide compatibility between 7.2 and 8.0, so we want to make sure that the newer versions of Linux are stable and compatible [before fully porting over]. We do not want to disrupt our customers with too many versions of Red Hat.”

“Rather than our asking our customers which operating system they want us to support, it's much more the case that our customers are asking us [for our suggestions]. A design engineer's job is to design a chip. They are not pushing forward new operating systems - they just want to work on the most current ones. We have a very synergistic relationship with our customers here.”

“The 64-bit platform is definitely emerging - today's high-end designs need the capacity. However, the 64-bit [machine] is more about capacity, not performance. And as we have products coming out on 64-bit platforms, we need to be sure not only that the operating system is working, but that the hardware is working as well. Meanwhile, Red Hat is coming out with its new AS (Advanced Server) product, Version 2.1. We're using that right now for our 64-bit products.”

“For a company like Synopsys, we have had some special 64-bit arrangements with specific customers, a situation that we approach on a customer-by-customer basis. For any EDA company these issues are complex - which operating system, which underlying hardware, how fast to migrate to newer technologies, how fast to ask the customer to migrate. We believe that it's easier for bigger companies to port and test on newer platforms, and believe that's something that can be very challenging for smaller companies. Start-ups are looking to the leaders in EDA to set the tone, and then follow that initiative.”

“There's definitely a real balancing act here. New platforms are the key to new technology, but are also disruptive at the same time. Anytime a customer has to move to a whole new set of computers, they have to perform a host of quality tests, etc. Venders never take that kind of migration lightly - and neither do the customers.”

Industry News - Tools & IP

Anasift Technology Inc. announced the company is entering the high performance op amp optimization and synthesis market. The company says the products will be based on Symbolic Based Optimization, and that existing optimization approaches such as simplifying and linearizing the transistor models or using parameterized compilers don't result in high performance analog. The company's initial products are aimed at optimization and synthesis of high performance op amps, the basic building block for analog design and the device that typically gates the performance of the overall analog design. Anasift's products are designed to fit into existing Cadence, Mentor Graphics, and Synopsys analog design flows.

Applied Wave Research Inc. (AWR) and OEA International, Inc. announced a technology licensing agreement that enables AWR to integrate into its high-frequency EDA design environment core interconnect-extraction technology into OEA's NET-AN 3D multi-net field extractor. The companies also announced a marketing agreement enabling AWR to market a number of OEA products through its worldwide distribution channels.

Cadence Design Systems, Inc. announced that Teradiant Networks Inc. used the Cadence RTL Compiler to accelerate development of the TeraPacket chipset, which includes a network processing engine and a traffic manager. The companies say the 200+ million transistor chipset is among the densest semiconductors designed to date. It took Teradiant eight months to design TeraPacket using Cadence RTL Compiler, which the company calls a high-speed, high-capacity tool for RTL synthesis targeting advanced foundry process technology.

InnoLogic Systems, Inc. announced that Centaur Technology, Inc. and NVIDIA used InnoLogic's ESP-CV functional verification tool for development of the VIA C3 processor cores and GeForce FX cinematic graphics processor units respectively. Additionally, the company says that it has “achieved a significant milestone in the number of successful tape-outs accomplished by customers using ESP-CV … over one hundred successful silicon tape-outs from industry-leading electronics companies including MIPS Technologies, National Semiconductor, and Sun Microsystems.”

Magma Design Automation Inc. announced the release of Blast Rail, described by the company as a “correct-by-construction” rail design product to ensure power integrity for nanometer designs. Blast Rail is integrated within Magma's RTL-to-GDSII implementation flow. Blast Rail combines power planning, power analysis, voltage-drop analysis, voltage-drop-induced delay analysis, and analysis of electromigration on rail wires and vias. The tool also provides capabilities for static analysis as well as dynamic analysis, and provides the ability to model network resistances, capacitances, and inductances - and uses these network parasitics to perform transient analysis.

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