February 01, 2005
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on EDACafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
| by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines collaboration as “to work jointly with others or together esp. in intellectual endeavors”. There are two types of collaboration, namely sequential and parallel. In the case of sequential collaboration the output of one activity or stage is accepted as input to the next where it is processed and delivered or output to the next stage. The simplest example is a bucket brigade where material (water, sand bags, packages, ..) is passed hand to hand from the front of the line to the end of the line. A more complicated example is the construction of a multistory building. No matter how hard one tries, you can not start with the roof. One
has to lay the
foundation first and then the intervening floors before starting on the roof. Parallel collaboration can be further broken down into two types. The first type is where later activities or at least the knowledge and expertise of later activities are brought to bear on the early stages of a project thereby accelerating time to completion. Errors of commission and omission are detected and corrected early where cost and time to change are smallest. This approach has often been referred to as simultaneous or concurrent engineering. This is the fundamental value proposition of EDA and CAD in general. Through simulation, design for test and design for manufacturing technologies and so forth
designs are analyzed and/or synthesized with the knowledge of downstream applications shrinking the time and cost of those activities. The second type of parallel collaboration is where multiple individuals or groups perform the same or similar tasks at the same time. Let us return to the example of the multistory building. Assume that each floor is to be occupied by a different tenant and hence the interiors of each floor will be different. The design and later the build out of each floor can be carried out independently. This is a spatial segmentation or partitioning of the work effort. For any given floor there will be design and subsequent construction involving different
disciplines, i.e. HVAC, electrical, lighting, and structural. While the disciplines are independent the physical items e.g. cable trays, beams, ceiling panels, walls, ducts and pieces of equipment, can not occupy the same space. Coordination across the disciplines is required. Previous editorials have addressed the first type of parallel collaboration. This commentary is about parallel collaboration of the second sort, specifically for printed circuit board layout.
Mentor Graphics has two products, TeamPCB and XtremePCB, which enable multiple designers to work simultaneously on PCP layout design.
TeamPCB is the earlier product having been introduced in July 2003.
First a lead designer identifies a number of reserved areas defined by closed polygons. Then the design is split into multiple partitions.
Each partition includes the data from the entire master design prior to the split. Any objects wholly inside the reserved area associated with the partition are completely editable, while objects outside the reserved area will be locked. Objects crossing the reserved area border are locked; except for traces, which are split at the border of the partitions. Placement, routing and drafting functions are all allowed in a partition; Designers can even auto route a partition or run simulation routines. Each partition can be edited and saved individually. While editing a partition, designers may change the clearance and trace width rules to suit their particular needs.
When a connection starts in one partition and ends in another, the designer may insert a guide pin (akin to a virtual pin) to guarantee that the connection will be routed to the same point at the edge of the reserved area. Guide pins may also be used for connections that do not start or end in a partition, but run through it.
At any time the designer may synchronize the graphics outside his area by requesting any data that the other designers have saved.
At each step in the process the status of the original design and its partitions are monitored to prevent accidental data.
XtremePCB was introduced in
. This product does away with the split-and-join paradigm and allows multiple designers to simultaneously work on a single data base and to see all other client edits in real-time. This new technology employs an Xtreme Design Session manager (XDS) and multiple Xtreme Design Clients (XDC) in a networked environment. The session manager's primary activity is to receive update requests from each client, check them to ensure no design rule violations are made and then synchronize all clients with the updates.
The design is initially loaded on the server and each client is initialized and synchronized when joining the session by the automatic downloading of the current state of the server design into the client memory space. Once a client has joined the design session, edits on the design may be made using the standard editing tools available in the application.
An edit event is a discrete action by a client that is captured and sent to the server as an update request. For example, moving a part from point A to point B is an event. The edit event is sent to the server as a transaction describing what is to be deleted and what is to be added. Whenever an edit event occurs on a client, a local design rule check (DRC) is performed prior to that event being sent to the server. The server takes the edit request, integrates it into the design database, performs a DRC and if no violations are found, the edit is approved and sent through an Output Message Queue to all the clients for synchronization of the client in-core databases. The client that made
the original request does not have the edit event completed until the server broadcasts the update to all clients. If the server determines that the edit event creates a DRC violation, it can attempt to correct the error. If it cannot be corrected, then the edit event will be rejected and only the client that made the request will be notified of the rejection.
The effectiveness of this technology is dependent upon its ability to automatically resolve or prevent conflicts between designers or automatic processes. Some potential conflicts and resolution mechanisms include.
Timing Collisions - To prevent multiple clients from editing the same object at the same time, the object is reserved for the first client selecting it.
Permanent Protection - A client may lock objects, preventing other clients from editing those objects while they are locked.
Temporary Protection - A client may draw a complex polygon as a reserved area.
Sandboxes - clients may define an area by layer that is reserved for what-if design work.
Force Fields - a dynamic area of protection whose size is within limits proportional to amount of a client spends actively working in an area. Other clients may not click within another's force field.
XtremePCB is compatible with a variety of network environments, including symmetrical multiple processors (SMP), local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). Minimum bandwidth is 300Kbps and maximum latency is 200 ms.
The Xtreme technology could also be used to support distributed autorouting where each autorouter has its own CPU and memory space and posts routing updates to the server.
UK firm Radstone Technology, a developer of rugged, high performance COTS embed computer products for dense and aerospace industry, has tested the software on a high-speed VME-bus board that was behind schedule. Two designers worked on the 16-layer board, which featured over 7,000 nets and 12,500 vias. Ian McCormick, CAD manager at Radstone, said "XtremePCB allowed us to have two designers working simultaneously on the design of a complex board and reduce our layout cycle time by 40 to 50 per cen."
I spoke with Jon Isaac, Director of Market Development for Mentor's System Design Division. He described the scenarios where this technology could be of significant benefit.
Simultaneous layout by multiple designers on large complex designs. The designers could be in the same room or geographically dispersed. This capability would also support Follow-the-Sun work strategy and outsourcing to third parties.
Simultaneous layout by technical specialists (analog, digital, RF) on mixed technology designs. Working in parallel rather than in sequence.
Xtreme PCB leads to cycle time reduction and increased resource flexibility.
XtremePCB is an optional add-on to Board Station RE or Expedition. Pricing starts at $50,000 for the Xtreme Session server and pricing for each XtremePCB client seat starts at $15,000 per license
Last November I authored a report on Webconferencing that is a form of collaboration. Oridus is a firm that offers webconferencing but in addition it offers some specific applications for the global electronics industry.
Oridus, a firm founded in 1977, has focused on applying internet real time technologies in assisting semiconductor and electronics design companies to handle complicated collaboration tasks. In the summer Synopsys acquired 19.9% of the company. A twenty percent share is a trigger for certain SEC regulations. Among Oridus' offerings are
SpaceCruiser Web Conferencing is a real time collaboration solution that enables users across different geographical locations conduct online presentation, desktop sharing and remote access with audio (VoIP) and video capabilities. Each collaboration session can be recorded and played back later.
Remote Access is a scaleable server side application publishing framework that makes UNIX (Solaris and Linux) desktop sharing securely managed. Corporate clients gain access to UNIX desktop applications through browsers or SpaceCruiser client.
GDSCruiser allows remote access to the physical database of the mask layout design and facilitates engineering collaboration cross multi-site design teams. GDSCruiser has major navigation and browsing features, reads the industry-standard mask layout interchange format GDS II and supports hierarchical mask design viewing.
MebesCruiser provides major navigation and browsing features and reads the industry-standard Mebes and Jobdeck format database. It can serve as a single user Mebes viewer or conference mode viewer
Oridus has licensed its products to the big three silicon foundries UMC, SMIC, TSMC.
Top 25 Innovations
It's that time of year. CNN recently broadcast a show on the Top 25 Innovations over the last 25 years as judged by a panel of technology leaders assembled by the Lemelson-MIT Program. In creating the list, the group hoped to single out "25 non-medically related technological innovations that have become widely used since 1980, are readily recognizable by most Americans, have had a direct and perceptible impact on our everyday lives, and/or could dramatically affect our lives in the future.”
The ordered list follows.
1. The Internet
2. Cell phone
3. Personal computers
4. Fiber optics
6. Commercialized GPS
7. Portable computers
8. Memory storage discs
9. Consumer level digital camera
10. Radio frequency ID tags
12. DNA fingerprinting
13. Air bags
15. Advanced batteries: nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries
16. Hybrid car
18. Display panels
20. Space shuttle
22. Flash memory
23. Voice mail
24. Modern hearing aids
25. Short Range, High Frequency Radio
As with any such list one can certainly quarrel with the order. Perhaps one of your favorites missed the list. One might consider challenging a date. For example, fiber optics goes back more than 25 years. The panel may have meant some level of fiber optic networking. It would also be interesting to see how much the list would change if we were to go back 30 years, 40 years or 50 years. At some point communication satellites and the lasers would appear.
What is more interesting is the rate at which these innovations have become widely adopted. Many of these technologies have spread throughout society at far faster rates than the automobile, television and telephone did in earlier times. Several of these innovations originated in government or military. In order for some of these innovations to spread, sufficient infrastructure had to be developed just as roads, highways and bridges and gas stations were needed for the automobile.
By the mere fact that you are reading this commentary you are demonstrating that you own or have access to many of these innovations. I am old enough (won't say how old) to remember life without TV (and TV dinners much less microwave) and party lines and rotary dial phones, secretaries that took dictation and typed letters and so on. Today most households have multiple TVs, cell phones, Internet access and so forth.
The table below shows the top 22 countries with the highest percentage of population using the Internet according to Internet World Stats.
According to WebsiteOptimization.com: as of February 2004, most household users in the US connect to the Internet using dial-up modems of 56Kbps or less. 44.4% use 56Kbps modems, 7.6% use 28/33.3Kbps, and 2.9% use 14.4Kbps modems. In total, 54.85% of home users in the US connect to the Internet at 56Kbps or less. Access to broadband connection is more prevalent in the workplace.
This spread of technology has had considerable impact on how we live our lives both personal and professional. We can communicate with family, friends, associates, the office, customers and prospects 24/7 regardless of where we are.
One can argue that technology is ethical neutral. It is how you use it that counts. As the NRA would say “Guns don't kill, people do.” There are obvious great benefits from technology for society and individuals. The Internet represents the most important educational advanced since the printing press. The ability to quickly access information far beyond the capabilities of any city library is invaluable The Internet supports formal learning at distance whether from an academic institution, from a vendor or from an employer. The Internet also supports all aspect of e-commerce (search, buy, sell, track, return, customer service). Thanks to the Internet many people are now
work at home rather than spending time and money commuting to an office.
Unfortunately, there is a negative side to new technology. Some people have become addicted to the Internet, spending hours every day. In children this behavior can stunt social development. In older surfers this behavior can disrupt relationships with family and friends. We are bombarded by spam. We are vulnerable to viruses. There is increased possibility of identity theft. The possibility of outsourcing jobs like software engineering, customer service, medical transcription, radiology and so forth to places like India and China has increased. The industry that has reaped the most profit from the Internet appears to be pornography. Pedophiles stalk chat rooms. It is more
to reach a real live person when computerized customer service is insufficient. There is a loss of privacy. Interaction with fellow employees is minimized by telecommuting. We have all been annoyed by having to listen to one half of a cell phone conversation by someone on the other side of a restaurant or store. People don't seem to realize that the cell phone is quite sensitive. Remember the ad with the pin dropping. Having determined that cell phone use on airplanes is safe the Federal Communications Commission is going to have a period of public comment about using cell phones on airplanes.
Whether one views the advance of technology as good or bad depends upon one's unique situation. Those who feel in some way “victims” of technology will obviously have one perspective. When viewed by decades rather than years the answer for society may be easier to determine.
In a previous commentary I reported on Intel's results for the fourth quarter and the year. On January 17th the company announced a major reorganization. Before the changes Intel was divided into two major business, computer chips and communications. The communication unit had an operating loss of $791 million last year. The distinction between computing and communicating is increasingly blurring. The plan is to build platforms or bundles of chips and software for various markets.
The new organization set up has business units focused on mobility, enterprise, home, health and global markets. This is being seen as the first major move by Paul Otellini who will be taking over the reins from retiring CEO Craig Barrett.
On January 19th Intel unveiled its latest Centrino mobile technology for notebook PCs. The new mobile platform is packed with entertainment and business features ranging from blazing-fast graphics to better responsiveness and support for greater security options. Centrino mobile technology includes an Intel processor (Pentium M), the 915 Express chipset family, wireless hardware and network connection software. The company expects more than 150 different notebook designs based on the new Intel Centrino mobile technology (formerly codenamed Sonoma) to be available this year.
Intel said it will introduce its next generation 90-nanometer Pentium M processor (code-named "Dothan") by the end of June and update all the elements of its Centrino mobile technology with its new "Sonoma" technology over the rest of the year.
Although much smaller than Intel, AMD had been capturing market share and beating Intel on the technology front during 2004. But then on January 10th AMD issued a statement that it expected fourth-quarter operating income to be "down significantly" from the third quarter. The stock plunged 26% the next day.
On January 18th AMD announced the results for the fourth quarter and the year. The firm reported record sales of $1.26 billion and operating income of $20 million for the quarter. Sales increased 5% year-over-year and 2% sequentially. The fourth quarter net loss of $30 million which included charges of $49 million, largely associated with the conversion and retirement of debt. This compares to net income of $43 million in the same quarter a year earlier and $44 million in the prior quarter.
Table AMD Quarterly Financial Result
CEO Hector Ruiz began the analysts call by saying “The fourth quarter for AMD was a solid quarter in microprocessor but frankly a freaking dismal quarter in flash. In processors we showed some strong fundamentals but in my view despite year over year gains it was an underwhelming end to an otherwise breakaway year.”
According to Robert J. Rivet, AMD's chief financial officer, “Fourth quarter sales growth was largely due to a nine percent increase in Computation Products Group sales. Record fourth quarter microprocessor sales were driven by increased server and mobile dollar and unit sales. As anticipated, AMD64 processor sales increased to 50 percent of total PC processor sales for the quarter. Memory Group sales were weaker than expected due to an aggressive pricing environment (a 30% decline in flash prices in the second half of the year due to Samsung and Intel, flash represents 43% of AMD revenue), significantly lower sales in Japan, and a delay in qualifying a new product in the
For the full year ended December 26, 2004, AMD achieved record sales of $5 billion, a 42 percent increase from 2003. Net income for the year was $91 million, including charges of $51.6 million. AMD reported sales in 2003 of $3.52 billion and a net loss of $274 million including credits of $13.9 million.
Table AMD Annual Financial Results
“In 2004 both the processor and Flash memory businesses were profitable,” said Robert J. Rivet, AMD's chief financial officer. “Total sales increased by 42 percent compared with 2003, driven by 29 percent growth in our microprocessor business and 65 percent growth in our Flash memory business.”
For guidance the company said “Based on the strong acceptance of AMD64 technology, AMD expects its processor momentum to increase as the year unfolds. In the first quarter, AMD expects processor sales to be flat to down slightly in the typically seasonally down quarter."
AMD expects Flash memory sales to be down in the first quarter due to continued imbalance in supply and demand, continued pressure on ASPs and seasonality.”
IP and SoC
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.