July 07, 2008
“Blue Ocean Strategy” + OVP (Open Virtual Platform)
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I read this book called “Blue Ocean Strategy”. I fly a lot. I tend to browse books. I tend to buy a lot of junk books. With most of them I get 20 pages in and leave them on the plane. But this one captured me. Basically the “Red Ocean Strategy” is where you are in a competitive situation. You are fighting with existing players for market share. No one is making much progress but you grow with the market. It is hard work but you can make money with it. Another approach is to find an area where no one is there and move some people to that area and do something different. The book has all these examples. I sat there thinking that that seems interesting but I can’t see how that would fit. Then we realized that we are doing an awful lot of stuff with open source. I said “if we do this in open source, we would change the whole game.” I thought about it. There was a company called Artisan that ARM acquired. What happened was that Artisan was in a tough business competing with big companies building libraries. What they said was let’s change the model ala Blue Ocean. They basically destroyed the competition. That’s what we want to do. We want to do it in a different way. That is basically what OVP is all about. We think things should be free and freely available. We basically put our technology and said lets give away our whole
simulation technology which we calculated was about $4M of effort which is a lot for a startup that had only raised $7 million. Let’s put it out there and give it away to try to establish an open standard and to do so in such a way that an industry could build. We toyed with the idea that we would give just a little bit of it to tease people. Everywhere we went, people said “No. It has got to really work very well and really be of use, and then people will use it and a community will grow and maybe then there will be an opportunity to upsell professional things on top.” That’s where we went. We created this website for OVP (http://www.ovpworld2.org). We support and manage it. We accept input from others. It is not just through us. Initially, it was just us. When I was having these ideas, I talked to a lot of people. We came up with some requirements of what it should be. It has to be easy to create these platforms and to create these models. There should be a library in there. It should not want too much detail. It has got to be very fast. There were lots of requirements that these people came up with. We ended up with about 17 to 20 people who went public, who said we think this is a good idea and agreed to support us. These were not people who said that we will buy this thing. They were not committing. They were just saying the industry needs something and this looks like it could be in the right direction. The Denali guys are pretty excited as is Critical Blue. IP providers MIPS and Tensilica are saying yeah, we can see there is a need for this sort of thing. Some people who are our customers and already using the tools, academics and consultant. Brian Bailey just last week published a white paper. I think it is phenomenal in what it does in explaining the issues and why he thinks what we are doing is a good idea. I’ve known Brian a long time. I think that he is dry and very critical sometimes. You never know what you are going to get sometimes when people write things. Actually it is very good. A lot of different companies in different places. It seems a good idea to the tools vendors, academics, consultants, end users. A lot of different things. Some people not knowing exactly how it might fit. But I remember when we did SUPERLOG which became SystemVerilog. I remember talking with Denali. They were not sure where it would fit, this idea about extending Verilog. It makes sense when I talked to them six months or a year ago. I said “How did SystemVerilog work out?” They are making tons of money out of it building all these models for people. It has brought a lot of light to different
areas. They are actually capitalizing on the vision that we had. When they look at what we have now, they are not sure how it might fit. But they are building chips where they could use it.
So people are not quite sure. They know something has got to change and this seems a good idea. They are nervous how much effort we will put into it and how much control we will exert. That will play out over time. One of the things I have leaned is that there are right ways and wrong ways. If you put in too much control, it will fail. If we let it all go, it will fail too. There has to be a balance. I spent a lot of my time in EDA was trying to understand the marketing to be successful with different things. I think what we are trying to do with OVP is trying to pitch it at the right level. The thing that will win it is the API to model. There is this open source library but then there is the simulator that is free but it is not open source. One of the feedbacks we got is that some companies will not touch open source. For whatever reason they just do want it to infiltrate what they do in case it ends up related to their product. What they want is executables only. They want close source. The simulator is completely free. There are only two restrictions: You can not reverse engineer and you can not give it away. Everyone has to come back to the website for their own copy and sign the license agreement. In that way it is very open. It is completely full speed. That is what we have got out there. At the end of April I did a quick check of where we were. There were some 70
unique companies that have downloaded. It goes from Schlumberger, Epson, Freescale, Honeywell, Infineon, NXP, .. ; some academics as well. An interesting collection. Some OS guys, some programming guys. We haven’t advertised this to anyone out of the EDA industry. At the moment all these companies are semiconductor guys.
At the moment we are building the model base with the likes of Tensilica. We are starting to put stuff up that is useful to the software guys. That is when we think it will start to take off. They are really the guys who make use of the open source. Hardware people do not so much. There are some EDA companies that have gotten involved. OVP is focusing on that to hopefully become the foundation for software development environments. There is a lot of good stuff on how to build processor models. You can put it together on platforms. You can work in SystemC or in Spirit and plug it into existing methodologies.
Editor: The announcement was
Tensilica Inc. has signed a partnership agreement with Imperas to allow fast functional, instruction accurate models of its popular Xtensa and Diamond Standard processors to run on Open Virtual Platform (OVP) based virtual platforms. Specifically, wrapper files enabling integration of the Tensilica processor models are now available for free download from the www.OVPworld.org website. These models will run with Tensilica's TurboXim fast functional simulator, which simulates at speeds 40 to 80 times faster than a traditional instruction set simulator.
Actually this is from the first page of the website. These things run unbelievable fast in terms of the speed people need. If they are doing RTL, everybody needs faster. They will live with where they are. To develop applications you need hundreds of millions of instructions per second. To boot Linux is I don’t know about 500 billion instructions. You can’t do that at 1K instructions per second. You need a simulator faster than that. That is what our processor does. The average speed is probably 200 million or 300 million instructions per second. The peak is 1.3 billion instructions per seconds and that is running on a 3GHz machine.
The recent announcement with Tensilica is that they have been working with us and they have customers that want to use this approach for multicore. They have done work to ensure that their models are encapsulated inside this and are available. So we put a page as part of the website. This is sort of a Wiki type thing. Companies can put their own pages and link to it. It grows as they build stuff. For Tensilica there is a distribution and licensing agreement. The Tensilica dongle works on these platforms. It’s all free. You instance it just like any other native model.
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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