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October 08, 2007
Cappuccino & Creativity: Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, Sentovich, and Szymanski
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.
Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor

by Peggy Aycinena - Contributing Editor
Posted anew every four weeks or so, the EDA WEEKLY delivers to its readers information concerning the latest happenings in the EDA industry, covering vendors, products, finances and new developments. Frequently, feature articles on selected public or private EDA companies are presented. Brought to you by EDACafe.com. If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

There are multiple parts to this week’s newsletter. If you don’t have a lot of time, or are not in the mood, just read Parts 2, 3, 4, or 5. Click on “Print Article” up there on the right, and you’ll see all of the text without the click-throughs.

However, if you do have some time and are in an expansive mood, please don’t miss Part 1 just below. It’s a conversation over cappuccino with Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, Ellen Sentovich, and Nancy Szymanski, and it’s really something special. I hope you’ll agree.

1 - Cappuccino & Creativity

2 – Coming soon to a theater near you

3 – New business cards

4 – News that’s noteworthy

5 – News that’s cool


A million years ago when I was an undergraduate at Berkeley, I used to stay up late into the night discussing everything under the sun with friends. We would argue about politics and philosophy, majors and careers, and whether there was life on other planets. There’s something about university life that fosters this kind of freewheeling conversation and there’s something about moving away from that environment, and the accumulated responsibilities of age, that precludes it ever happening ever again.

Unless you’re lucky and get invited to come for coffee at the home of U.C. Berkeley professor, Dr. Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli. If you’re doubly lucky, Cadence Research Scientist, Dr. Ellen Sentovich will be there, and Cadence’s Nancy Szymanski, as well. If you’re triply lucky it will be one of those lovely, wistful autumn days that Berkeley does better than most places on earth, and Dr. Sangiovanni-Vincentelli will make cappuccinos. Then you’ll sit and sip your coffee and examine great ideas and the exquisite architecture of his circa 1901 home simultaneously. And you’ll think for a minute that
the last million years haven’t come and gone, and you’re back in the days of yore when you could sit and talk for hours on end, and every idea that could be imagined was open to discussion and debate.


1 – Cappuccino & Creativity

Peggy – Is there a future in EDA for young technologists?

Ellen – Certainly there’s a future for students in EDA. True, it’s changed a lot since I first began. When I first came to U.C., it was about synthesis – there was such a large group at that time. Now it’s [moved] out to the system level and I think it will move quite a bit more. In the EDA industry, we have a lot of skills and expertise that can be applied in many areas. Yes, EDA has a lot of possibility for young technologists.

Alberto – Speaking of my own personal history, I came to U.C. in 1975 to work in simulation. I helped develop SPICE, and after that started doing work in waveform-relaxation technology and then moved into layout. We started working with Bob Brayton in logic synthesis at IBM in 1980. There were two groups at the time in IBM – one was John Derringer’s and Bill Joyner’s, and the other group was Brayton’s. I was a visiting scholar then at IBM. They tried to make me a full-time employee – Bob Brayton tried everything to get me into IBM – but a miserable winter in Yorktown Heights convinced me to come back to California, and
eventually I got Bob to come to Berkeley instead.

[Note: Dr. Brayton joined the faculty at Cal in 1987 and has just been named the 2007 recipient of the Phil Kaufman Award.]

Our approach to synthesis at that time was based on an attempt to be very mathematically rigorous and do global optimization. The other approach was a compiler technology, but the people optimizing in our group were getting better results. [This was the main emphasis] of my work from 1980 to 1988, and then we starting thinking about formal verification and how to innovate there.

In 1988, I started working with Magneti-Marelli, one of the largest companies in automobile subsystems. They were coding a new power train control for Formula 1 autos. In the old days there was a manual clutch, but the stick was very short so the poor drivers had a lot of work changing gears and their hands were bloodied from the stress. The company asked, why not do the shifting algorithmically and defined an automatic control system that would optimize the process. But the people at Magneti-Marelli were worried that their system might actually cause the car to explode. They heard there was an Italian professor at Berkeley, so they came to Cal to see me and asked us to verify that
their system worked.

We tried to do that by using formal verification, but finding a formal representation of the algorithm was not easy. The only thing we had was the actual code – assembly code for a tiny 8-bit microprocessor – so we reverse-engineered the algorithm. It turned out to be a finite state machine, and we found an error – a corner condition – that we were able to correct. It would have been much easier to have had the algorithm to start with, but this story [illustrates] why verification is so important. In engineering, there is no separation between what you want to do and how you go about accomplishing it.

This project gave us the inspiration to start working in system-level design in 1988 at Cal. At the time, we were the only ones in the world [working in this area]. It illustrates the point that because I talked to industry, we had the opportunity to address a very advanced problem in our research.

Peggy – Ellen, was Alberto your PhD advisor?

Ellen – No, I did my master’s with Richard Newton and my PhD with Bob Brayton. The first time I met Alberto, I was preparing to give a paper at ICCAD on the IBM-versus-Berkeley methods. It was [a Berkeley tradition], that the professors would rehearse the students to death who were making presentations at a conference. I had to give my ICCAD talk before a group of professors, including Alberto. It was on Boolean networks and edges, and after I was done Alberto said the first part of my talk was a clear as mud.

I was devastated, but by the time I got to ICCAD I was really prepared. During the Q&A after my talk at the conference, a professor in the audience from another university presented a [very tough question]. I was so glad at that moment that I had already been raked over the coals by Alberto during my rehearsal. I was totally un-phased by the question. [Ellen laughed.]

Alberto – This is what we called the Berkeley stamp. Our students were always rehearsed to death before a conference.

Ellen – There really is no substitute for rehearsal.

Alberto – We won several Best Paper awards this year at DAC. One of my students gave his talk 3 times before going to DAC, and lo and behold, the third time we decided the way the paper was put together was just wrong. I told him to reorganize the talk and he did it at the last minute and still won Best Paper in San Diego.

I remember in 1982, it was my first DAC ever. We were presenting two papers. One was being presented by one of my students, and I was presenting the other – a paper co-authored with Richard Newton, Bob Brayton, and Gary Hachtel. I had done the bulk of the work, so I was the one to present, but I didn’t realize that at DAC everyone had slides. I only had handwritten foils. I think the organizing committee thought I was crazy, considering the quality of the conference.

But I rehearsed and rehearsed, and was so happy to win Best Paper. The other paper from our group also won Best Paper. Afterwards, we went out to celebrate in Las Vegas, so people had to come find us to let us know that we had not only won Best Paper, but we’d won Best Presentation as well. Since that time, things have changed. Now at DAC we only give out Best Paper awards before the conference. It is too difficult and there are too many presenters to be able to evaluate all of the presentations during the conference.

Ellen – Alberto, you may not know it, but the DAC Committee is still talking about your keynote address at DAC in 2003.

Alberto – That is another talk that I rehearsed to death. I rehearsed in front of a number of students at Cal – they had a ball giving me so much trouble during my rehearsals. They would say, “This is not clear,” or “This doesn’t follow from that.” [Alberto laughed.]

Ellen – Yes, and I’m sure they learned a lot in the process. [Ellen laughed.]

Peggy – I remember that keynote well. How did you come up with the idea of comparing the history of EDA with the Age of Gods, the Age of Heroes, and the Age of Man?

Alberto – Why? It is related to my research. In the issue of system-level design, I have found what I hope is a unifying theory, a unifying theory for EDA. But, back in high school, I studied the classics – 5 years of Greek and 8 years of Latin. So in looking at the history of EDA, I said, Click! I know where this comes from!

It started with Giovanni Battista Vico, the first philosopher of history who developed a set of rules by which history works. He said governments are formed, states are made and then die. From him, we have this view of recursion and recourse – things happen again and again. I noticed the same phenomenon within the history of EDA. The history is like a sine wave.

Peggy – But what if we see history as a spiral that doubles back on itself, while also progressing, rather than a sine wave?

Alberto – We’re looking at meta data here, while the philosophy of history looks at the principles. So Vico’s principle looks at how people behave. For instance, when the U.S. was formed, there was a great deal of extreme enthusiasm worldwide. You can see clearly that the formation of the U.S. was the basis of the French Revolution. It is the sine wave in history.

You can see it again in 1968 when there was another wave of revolution for good or bad. I was in university at the time in Europe, and although the content of the 1968 revolution was different than that of the French Revolution, some events were similar. The ’68 revolution, to a certain extent, spread worldwide and it supports a common meta principle that it should be so. When you look at the history of EDA, you’ll see there are cycles there as well. It’s always verification, then synthesis, then verification, then synthesis. A sine wave.

The other interesting thing is that if you look at the population of moths. You have these invasions, with huge amounts of moths in one particular year. The year after that, the numbers have returned to normal because they’ve been consumed [by their predators]. In EDA, there is this expansion and shrinking of populations of companies, as well. First there are increased number of players and then less. Although you sometimes wonder why so many were funded at one time, for instance, in 1999/2000 when the real frenzy started for investing in certain new companies.

I come from the baby boom generation, and from looking at 1968, it is clear what the outcome was going to be from the baby boom. They were born to parents who had suffered through the war, but they themselves were not witnesses to any war, so we were very optimistic that we could change the world. There were many among us with that confidence. But if you look at our offspring, the X Generation, these people are prosperous, but they’re very worried. They’re spoiled and lack confidence that they can change the world. They have this feeling that they’re helpless.

Ellen – I don’t think they have the hunger of [earlier generations].

Alberto – I remember my father telling me that after World War II was over there was reconstruction. He felt Europe had come up from a pit, and could only go further up. Now the world is in a stable situation. Yes, there is terrorism, but it’s not like in 1918 or 1940. Those kinds of wars are no more. The younger generation today is not threatened, but they’re afraid to look at what they’ve got. There’s an unwillingness to take risks. [In fact], you have a lot of isolationism, people wanting to stay alone, to build a cocoon. They stay on the Internet and only interact with the world through a shield.

Peggy – You make it sound like a form of autism. And also, isn’t this a result of the electronic devices that your work has partially helped to develop?

Alberto – Yes, it is like autism. But what I see is a very serious problem with the younger generation. They may not have the spark of invention that we had in 1968 when the world seemed ours to conquer. The markets were growing all over the place then, and the people controlling those markets were the kids of the Baby Boom generation. We felt we were actors in charge of our destiny – in France at the Sorbonne, and across all of Europe.

Peggy – The idea that freedom is another word for nothing left to lose?

Alberto – Yes, but in social terms we are all intertwined.

Ellen – In France, I used to see scientific people going into the research labs, but now, 5 or 6 years later, that has changed. There is more money for startups in Europe and more people are going there. I’ve seen this change in just these few years.

Albert – Yes, I think the sine wave can be measured in 5-year intervals now. It’s definitely accelerating.

Ellen – At the same time in France today, I think things are sliding – things like health care and the social network.

Alberto – In Europe, societies are based on socialism, but they have to compete now in a bigger, global society. However, the social goal for Europeans [continues to be] to work less, and enjoy life more, and to try to accomplish these goals for the largest numbers of people. In Europe, you don’t have to worry about getting sick because you’ll be taken care of.

But who is giving the money to sustain all of this? On the one side Europeans are competing with people in India and China, where there are a lot of people entering the market, and even with the U.S. where the market is very dynamic. On the other side, you have an aging population in Europe with the expectation that the social network will take care of them – they expect a guarantee. Most people that I know in Europe are retiring at 58, pulling more money out of the system than is being put back in.

I know a lot of people from the north of Europe, Scandinavia and so on. Most are socialist, but the taxes are unbelievable. In Sweden, there is actually a great deal of depression. People say, if I earn money, it goes to the state. There is no incentive there. If I work more, if I work less, I have a child, if I am a divorced woman, [in all situations] I will have full support from the state. Life becomes boring and sad. I [had the opportunity] to go to Russia when it was under Brezhnev. That was also depressing. And it’s the same in Italy today. People are asking, What does it matter what I do? It makes you ask what is the real goal of human life?

Ellen – We see this happening in countries with large aboriginal populations, as well.

Alberto – I’m very Calvinist – from Milan and Torino. We believe that if you’ve been given some gifts in life, it’s your duty to make the most of them. Don’t waste yourself. Go to Harvard, or do whatever you want, but remember you have a brain. That brain means you have to do something, to make a dent in the world. Everyone should do some thinking! I have three rules for my children:

1) You have a brain. Make it work.

2) There’s no excuse if you’re not performing at your top level.

3) If you decide to do something, follow through. Never take shortcuts, and don’t try to fool people.

Ellen – I only work to one rule as a parent – it’s a simplified parenting model. Give them responsibility. I believe children will rise to the occasion. My children are still young, but one way I do it is, if they have a toy and they want to bring it somewhere, I tell them they must decide if they really want to take it because it could get lost or broken. It’s their responsibility to decide, and they rise to occasion and decide.

Alberto – But sometimes children are not capable of making decisions. It really depends on the character of the kid. Some children, for instance, have an innate sense of what something is worth. The value of things is very clear to them, and given a chance to buy something at a toy store, for instance, they will balance the price with what they perceive to be the value. That’s the difference between Ellen’s parenting and my parenting. When my children were young, I told them what to do.

Ellen – You give children responsibility. In trusting them, they trust you. Of course, with young children you need to help them to understand there are some boundaries.

Peggy – What do you think about the issue of nudging your children to study engineering?

Alberto – There are several issues here. There is the social view of technology. In the old times, in France, and Italy, and Japan, if you had a brain you had to do engineering. There was no other choice. In addition, if you came from a good family, it was a given that you would study engineering. I came from a good family, but I hated engineering. I wanted to do physics and philosophy, but I had no choice. All kids of a certain social class in Italy did engineering and only in particular schools.

Ellen – In France, it was the Polytechnique. And then, if you couldn’t cut it in engineering, you went into economics.

Alberto – When I came to the U.S., I looked at the composition of the student body in engineering and saw that people often came into the major from blue collar families here. But if you looked at the foreign students coming to study engineering, from India or China or the Europeans, they were from the top echelon. Here, American students from the top echelon study law, or business administration, or medicine. That’s it. There’s not a single person who studies engineering, although you occasionally have someone who does computer science. In Europe, however, if you went into law you were considered to have wasted a brain. But oddly, Europeans are not
good engineers.

Ellen – I think it’s changing now. It used to be important to have a medical doctor in the family here, but now if someone has a higher education – a PhD, for instance – it gets a lot of respect.

Alberto – A degree in engineering in Europe combines economics, physics, at least 2 years of math, and studying science to death. It’s the equivalent to 2 or 3 degrees in the U.S. Now, however, even in Italy, more students are taking a degree in business administration or economics rather than engineering.

Still in certain societies, engineers are still at the top of the crop of society. Of course, you could argue, who cares about the social status or geography?  Does it really matter? When Indian and Chinese students come here to study, they stay because they are eager to reach the standard of life that is available here. And they [gravitate to] the mystique of Silicon Valley. Just being part of that has great social value in other places in the world. That’s true for me, as well. When people know I come from Silicon Valley, they think I know something. Everywhere – in Europe, in China, in India – it has tremendous cache.

Nancy – Yes. If you say you’re from Silicon Valley anywhere else in the world, they know what that means. They say you’re a genius!

Alberto – The best thing about this place here, however, is that we don’t discriminate. Berkeley, for instance, is a true cross section of all social classes. Although as a society, because of the over-limitations we’re putting on immigration these days, that may have changed, but only temporarily. We went way overboard for security reasons these last few years, but thank god for our economic infrastructure. I wrote a paper that said we’re really killing the idea of Silicon Valley by preventing immigration. [And I think people are starting to understand that now.]

Peggy – Is India the “It” place today?

Alberto – Not necessarily, although it’s a global society today. For instance, if you look at why Taiwan is the way it is – right now, we get very few graduate students from Taiwan. So I want the hungry people to come here. I want the best people from around the world to come here to study, the people who wish to make a difference. If I get the top-level guy, that‘s okay, but I want freedom for people to move around.

I’ve gone to India numerous times, and the Cadence people there said to me, “You have to go to see the Taj Mahal!” But I said, I’ve seen images of the place a million times. I don’t have time to go. Finally, however, they convinced me to go, and just to make them happy, I went. But when I entered the place, my jaw dropped. Oh my god! It’s unbelievable! You have to be there to believe how beautiful it is. It’s the same with a global research team. You don’t have to be in the same place all the time, but you have to be together sometime during the project. This is what the global economy is about.

Ellen – Yes, you can get all the information you need on the Web, but it’s not a substitute for meeting with people face to face.

Alberto – I see all of the people I work with in person. The CEO of an Italian company came by, for instance – a very powerful man who travels everywhere. He came here and saw the students, and the Berkeley Cadence Lab. He saw that people were working even into the evening. and he was amazed at how hard everyone worked. He really needed to see it to believe it – the industrious nature of technologists here.

Ellen – J. Keeling gave a keynote earlier this year on campus. It was only 3 months after Richard Newton died, and at the time all I could see were black clouds – that Richard’s [research initiative] was lost. I listened to Keeling speak, and it gave us all hope. There is such a range of applications for [his work], and what he was saying. I had read about Keeling, but there’s nothing like being there to hear him speak in person.

Alberto – By the same token, when you compare seeing a recording of a play versus being there live – with the look and the smell of the theater – there is no comparison. I love theater, and would go to New York just for the weekend. I’d see theater productions Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, evening, and Sunday afternoon. You can see all of the things on TV if you like, but it is not the same.

In Milan, we have the most famous theater in the world. If you go there, you sit in this small theater. You hear the creaking boards of the stage. You see the lights in the eyes of the actors. It’s fantastic! Fantastic! So, what I think we have in this global society through our electronic gadgets, is one thing that is very good. We have exposure to many things, which is already making a big difference for many people. But then you have to take the next action. You have to go there in person!

Ellen – I was in Zellerbach Hall right after the Loma Prieta Earthquake for a talk from a geologist about tectonics. It was really useful at the time, putting things in perspective, and something [I needed to hear in person].

Peggy – Ellen, do you encourage your kids to study math and science?

Ellen – I do think about how to encourage my kids, things like doing math problems with my daughter. But engineering is a lonely, intellectual thing.

Alberto – This is true for every creative work. Engineering doesn’t develop the way people teach it. Often from the kind of people who teach engineering, you can see it’s not a discipline that develops your social skills. One of the problems I see is how to make my students more socially involved, to care about what they do. Most of my students already come with strong math skills, [but they need those other skills, as well].

Ellen – I remember when I was studying with a group of students at Cal, one of them looked up at something on the white board and said, “That function just doesn’t look innate. Goddamit – that function’s not innate!” Bob Brayton was laughing so hard.

Alberto – Yes, one my students at Berkeley used to say, “In functional spaces, no one hears you screaming.”

In all of my speeches, I try to speak in favor of a broad and wide education, of educating someone to do science and engineering. We are generalists in Europe, knowing a little about many different subjects. But you need to know something really well, [to make progress], but you also need to care about the other stuff. People who graduate in control theory, may not know computer science. And the computer science graduate may not know what a circuit is. We’re going back now in the universities [and revisiting that problem]. Engineering education here has been wrong – too narrow. Now we are starting to teach more about biological sciences, for instance.

Peggy – Do we study  engineering first or biology?

Alberto – Engineering first, and then biology. When you go to engineering from biology – we call it forma mente. It’s the shape of the mind for an engineer. In the sciences, you observe – discovery is the name of the game. You have to uncover something that’s there in the first place and understand how it works. But engineering is about creating.

Peggy – Isn’t it the hubris of engineering to think one can create?

Alberto – No, your forma mente is: “I have a problem and I have to have a way to solve the problem. I’m not going to discover what the problem is. I’m here to solve the problem.” That is an engineer. With scientists, however, you can spot them from a long distance away. They just smell different! [Alberto laughed.]

Ellen – If you’re going to solve problems, you need engineering first. When I first studied French, I wrote down the interesting things I noted in the language. Now I don’t notice those things anymore. If you’re trying to solve problems in synthetic biology, you need to notice things that you wouldn’t see if you didn’t study engineering first.

Alberto – It’s an abstract concept. If I want to find something new, I want to learn from biological systems – and it would be a mistake to do engineering first. Biology will not change engineers in the least. But, if you say you want to change things, then you’re an engineer. It’s our goal to move the technology with synthetic biology, so you must study engineering first. If you study biology before engineering, you’re already entrenched.

Peggy – What was your first computer language?

Alberto – Machine language. [Laughing.]

Ellen – Fortran. [Also laughing.]

Alberto – And paper tape was the output. All this encoding of bits, with holes in the paper. Then from that, you had to figure out what was going on.

Ellen – We still use the term, SPICE deck input, which hails from the card days.

Alberto – To look at the output of the PDP10 – it was so different back then.

Ellen – I’ve got very fond social memories of SPICE decks – trying to cheat the computer. [Laughing.]

Alberto – We were actually human operating systems in those days. The job scheduling was done manually. I remember during the night, standing at the window in the Computer Science center waiting for the results. You saw your card deck go through – sometimes the job would be aborted and sometimes it would run. It was like seeing an operation in the surgery and seeing your patient die – boom!

Ellen – Alberto is famous among his students for his sound effects. [Ellen laughed.]

Peggy – So, what is the future of EDA?

Alberto – We are at a particular time – the big corporations are making big steps towards virtual engineering and most of them are working on large systems. And if that’s the case, people must change the way designs are done. They’re certainly changing the amount of money involved in design, and they’re changing the level of integration you need to achieve.

Cars, for instance, are mechanical-electrical systems. The growth rate of integration in cars is huge – actually staggering – with the design objects being more and more electrical. So, you find yourself in a situation with giant multinational electromechanical companies. UTC is a conglomerate making air conditioners and elevators. GM is a huge auto corporation.

Now at the university, we have lots of programs with GM and UTC – I look at their problems as design science, not specifically electrical engineering, but design science. The principles of design apply across the board. If you’re building an intelligent building, there will be big integrations between the elevators, for instance, and other functions. There will be integrations to make the building more energy efficient, as well. It’s all about unified design, integrated design. There are big, big plays taking place [in the international conglomerates] that reflect this integration. Siemens bought UGS, IBM bought Telelogic, which had bought iLogic. These are the big
plays in the electromechanical domain.

Nancy – And Intel just bought VMware!

Alberto – So, why would IBM ever buy a tool company? Because they want to serve the embedded market with software and services. I see the strategy. Siemens buys UGS because it combines large-scale mechanical engineering and PLM. Amidst all of this, there is a big tectonic movement going one. Humongous markets are being created. And everything in all of this – everything you do – will be driven by the design tools across these markets.

Ellen – It’s what we’ve seen in recent years. Before, we just focused on chips, but now it’s power [and other technologies]. The design targets will continue to change. From controlling the house to controlling the car – we’re just scratching the surface of design.

Alberto – It’s the integration of electrical engineering with civil and mechanical engineer, so a key issue I see is connecting the people who make the chips with the people who use them. The people who make chips understand more, but not enough about what you do with electronics. We need to form a unified idea of design – in a seamless way – which is the goal of combining the technical aspects of civil, electrical, mechanical, software, and hardware together.

Ellen – There will be such an explosion of information. Richard Newton used to say, we’re not going to scroll through TV Guide to find out what’s on TV. There will be more efficient ways.

Alberto – We’re talking about the future of semantic networks here – about searching not on text, but on meaning. You say to your set top box, ‘Please find all of the movies that deal with Rock Hudson, or all movies that have Eric Romer.’ The set top box has to search the web, even for movies that are not well known, pay for them and – boom – get them onto your desktop.

Ellen – I really like the feature in Google that asks you, “Did you mean … ?“

In my very first CS class, the professor wrote an algorithm for how to diaper a baby: The first step is to place the baby on a flat surface. Without further specifications, however, a wall would satisfy that spec and the baby would fall. The search space looks much bigger when it’s not just a small string, but all permutations.

Alberto – We have to replace the syntactical view with the semantic view!

Peggy – So, about my black box where I give the specifications in natural language, and my completed design pops out the other side?

Alberto – But when you say ‘in natural language’ – words are not enough. You can’t expect to fulfill a specification for a car supplier, for instance, in natural language because if you give the specification in German, or Italian, or in English, something will be lost in translation. More importantly, there will be corners in the design you haven’t thought of, which need to be filled in. The key point here is that your black box must give immediate feedback – you must have a virtual prototype! And you need virtual engineering at the end of this interactive process!

Ellen – Yes, I think your black box will happen eventually. But natural language success in engineering has to come from fixed menus, as opposed to semantics. But there is no barrier [to the future research here]. Analog is how you speak, and you tailor what you say to your listener.

If you interact with a machine, you can interact just as well – it’s still just a dialog as it is with people. People make a statement to you, and you react. That’s the interactive aspect of dialog.

Peggy – So we create models of the world around us? Including the people?

Alberto – Yes, everyone is fundamentally a math model. You have input and from that you output something. The same is true for the people around you. Even if we have perfect models, even if I know your model, there’s no way to know if it’s correct. It’s only through dialog with me, that you make your ideas crisp to me. How many times have I worked with vague thoughts, and then – boom – after interacting with students, the ideas becomes crisp!

Ellen --- [That process] is particularly important in verification, to get the specification correct. Sometimes, for instance, you’ll get an answer, but in fact you didn’t ask the question correctly in the first place.

Alberto – Generally, when you talk about a specification, one problem is always inconsistency – a specification that is incorrect or is incomplete. So at the next level, you must ask if the constraints are satisfied. Is the specification contradictory? If a specification is incomplete, it is even more difficult because the solution space is incomplete.

Peggy – So we are talking about specifications for the world around us that are necessary and sufficient?

Alberto – Yes. In nature, you can take a wrong path and go back. But in engineering, you don’t have that option – you need to accelerate the path to the solution, to get it right through interactive and successive refinements. That’s what forma mente is all about!


2 – Coming soon to a theater near you

* EVE Verification SeminarsVarious dates in October across North America

* Xilinx Serial Connectivity SeminarsVarious dates in October across North America

* International System & SoC Forum 2007October 10th to 12th in Prague

* International SoC Design ConferenceOctober 15th & 16th in Seoul

* VLSI-SoC 2007October 15th to 17th at Georgia Tech in Atlanta

* EDAC Compliance ForumOctober 18th in Santa Clara

* 17th Annual IMEC Research Review MeetingOctober 18th & 19th in Brussels

* International Test Conference 2007October 21st to 25th in Santa Clara

* Simplicity & Xilinx Verification SeminarsStarting in October in Europe, NA & Asia

* 14th Annual Kaufman Award DinnerNovember 1st in Santa Clara

* ICCAD 2007November 5th to 8th in San Jose

* Common Platform Technology Forum 2007November 6th in Santa Clara

* FSA Semiconductor Leaders ForumNovember 7th in Taipei

* 2007 International SoC ConferenceNovember 7th & 8th in Newport Beach

* ISQED 2008 – send your papers - March 17 to 19, 2008 in San Jose


3 – New business cards

* Coresonic AB announced Rick Clucas has been named CEO. Clucas has 22+ years’ experience, including 17+ years in the IP industry most notably as Founder and CTO of ARC International. Previously, he served as an investment banking CTO, a consultant, and as CEO of Ignios. In related news, Coresonic also announced a 1 million euro investment from Industrifonden, slated to “enable Coresonic to market its innovative LeoCore technology into the growing WiMAX market and other demanding wireless standards.”

* Nascentric announced Grand Technology, Inc. (GTI) is the company’s distributor in Taiwan. GTI is a “tools and solutions provider” for ASIC and FPGA designers.

Synopsys announced it has acquired Sandwork Design, a privately held, California-based provider of analog and mixed-signal verification solutions. Per the Press Release, “The Sandwork tools include SPICE Explorer, a transistor-level design debugging environment, WaveView Analyzer a high-capacity, high-performance AMS waveform analyzer, and SpiceCheck for fast electrical rule checks of transistor-level netlists.”

I spoke with Synopsys spokesman, Ed Lechner, by phone on October 3rd about the Sandwork deal. Lechner’s the Director of Product Marketing for Custom Design at Synopsys, and his enthusiasm over the acquisition was palpable. He’s been heavily involved in the process, is a great admirer of the team and technology at Sandwork, and says not only are both coming over in total to Synopsys, but both will be honored and nurtured in their new home.

Per Ed, “Sandwork has a set of products that are already integrated into our Synopsys simulator. Our customers love the Sandwork products and we will help the Sandwork team grow their product line into [even larger] markets. It’s hard to find really good talent that’s already up and running these days, and the Sandwork team is great. [We admire] not only their cohesiveness, but their customers [are very appreciative] of their responsiveness.”

I asked Ed why the innovation that Sandwork brings to the verification process isn’t something that Synopsys was able to develop in-house. Ed was candid: “Sometimes small companies are able to focus on a [specific problem]. We have similar products going on here at Synopsys, but our core competency has been the verification simulation products. We saw that so many of our customers were using the Sandwork products, that rather than fight them, we’ve brought them on board.”

Ed also noted: “A lot of our customers are using Sandwork, as are lots of Cadence and Mentor customers. Even though we’re acquiring Sandwork, it’s our goal to maintain the products to that same level of opening in supporting those simulators.” It will be interesting to touch back with Ed in a year so and find out if Synopsys has succeeded there.


4 – News that’s noteworthy

* Agilent Technologies announced a donation of software, support, and training valued at $13 million to a new hub of the Georgia Electronic Design Center (GEDC) in Atlanta, a location sponsored by Georgia Tech. The organizations say, “The new Agilent EDA Simulation Center will facilitate RF and microwave-system and circuit-design instruction and research for students, and serve as a catalyst for start-up companies involved in wireless communications design … This agreement is part of the newly created Agilent EEsof EDA University Alliance program”

Joy Laskar, Director of GEDC, is quoted in the Press Release: "Agilent's EDA tools help us continue to advance wireless technology and support our students, as well as to encourage and support start-up companies. We also want to contribute to the success of other academic and non-profit institutions through sharing our experience in this partnership. We are making plans to release large portions of work using the Agilent EEsof EDA platforms for academic use."

* Altera Corp. announced its Quartus II software version 7.2. Chris Balough, Director of Software and Embedded Marketing at Altera, is quoted: "With our latest Quartus II software, our productivity advantage has improved from 2X to 3X compared to our competitor's solutions, enabling our customers to compile their designs faster and meet their aggressive time-to-market goals."

* Altos Design Automation and Cadence Design Systems announced the companies “have qualified 45-nanometer and 65-nanometer statistical static timing analysis (SSTA) models generated by Altos Variety in S-ECSM format for use with the new statistical timing analysis technology in the Cadence Encounter Timing System and SoC Encounter RTL to GDSII system … The test structures used to qualify the flow came from a number of different customers using different foundries.”

* ARC International released its VTOC 4.0 toolset, which was designed “for creating 100 percent cycle accurate C++ and SystemC models from Verilog and VHDL RTL.” The new release includes “a code analysis system that enables developers to generate C++ and SystemC models that are more efficient and achieve higher performance.”

* ARM announced the ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore multi-core processor and ARM Cortex-A9 single core processor, which the company says are “compatible with other Cortex family processors and the popular ARM MPCore technology [and] deliver highly scalable and power-efficient solutions by leveraging … a dynamic length, 8-stage superscalar, multi-issue pipeline with speculative out-of-order execution … capable of executing up to four instructions per cycle in devices clocked at 1+Ghz.”

* ARM also announced a collaboration with 6 companies, which the organizations say will result in “the development of a Linux-based open source platform for next-generation mobile applications.” The 6 companies include: Marvell, MontaVista, Movial, Mozilla, Samsung, and Texas Instruments. Instat’s Jim McGregor is quoted in the Press Release: “A critical component of success in [the ultra-mobile devices] market will be building on industry standards that promote innovation in silicon, systems, and most importantly, software solutions. Through open standards and growing industry support, Linux
naturally promotes such innovation.”

* Finally, ARM announced the RealView Profiler tool designed to “enable non-intrusive analysis of software performance and code coverage of real system workloads running over minutes, hours, or days … [The tool] includes comprehensive analysis of both statement and branch code coverage, enabling software testing to achieve and demonstrate 100% code coverage to ensure the highest level of software validation … The RealView Profiler is a plug-in to the Eclipse IDE.”

* Berkeley Design Technology announced that picoChip's PC102 multicore signal processing device “has a 40-fold advantage in price-performance over traditional DSP processors solutions in key communications benchmarks, and 8-times higher absolute performance. The BDTI Communications Benchmark (OFDM) results demonstrate that the PC102 picoArray can implement 14 benchmark channels in a single device running 160MHz … The PC102 is the first volume-shipping multi-core product to be submitted to independent audits for performance.

* Cadence Design Systems announced that Renesas Technology Corp. is using SSTA technology Cadence’s Encounter design platform as part of its “next-generation” design flow.

* Carbon Design Systems announced its Carbon Model Studio, which the company describes as “a solution for the automatic generation, validation and implementation of hardware-accurate software models, enabling a design team to begin software development and debug before silicon …System architects can use Carbon Model Studio for architectural analysis and profiling. Software engineers can develop and debug embedded software, firmware, drivers and diagnostics concurrent with hardware development. Additionally, Carbon Models can be securely distributed to third-party partners to accelerate adoption of an IP provider's technology devices.”

Carbon CTO Bill Neifert is quoted in the Press Release: "Accurate models are the foundation upon which any successful virtual platform is built. Model Studio is enabling our customers to deliver first-pass system success by quickly generating models that can plug into the virtual platform environment of their choice."

* Chip Estimate and the FSA announced a collaboration which the organizations promise will “bring greater value to the semiconductor design community with FSA's IPecosystem Tool Suite. With this agreement, vendors now have an option to upload their Hard IP Quality Risk Assessment Tool ‘risk profiles’ to Chip Estimate's chip planning portal. In addition, Chip Estimate users have the option to request a vendor's risk profiles or request that a vendor complete the Tool for their IP or family of IP within their portfolio. These features have been released as part of FSA's Hard IP Quality Risk Assessment Tool version 3.0.”

* Cimetrix released its EDAConnect Interface A software “solution,” which the company describes as “a client-side software library designed to assist IDMs and third-party software providers in creating applications that can utilize the rich data available via the new Interface A connectivity standards commonly known as Equipment Data Acquisition (EDA) … Created by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) in cooperation with International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI), the Interface A standards provide a second connectivity port for on-demand, high-quality data to be used by IDM critical equipment engineering systems
such as Advanced Process Control.”

* Cimmetry Systems, a subsidiary of Agile Software, which was recently acquired by Oracle, announced its AutoVue v.19.2, which the company says “solidifies Cimmetry’s presence in the electronics and high-tech market with new EDA centric product offerings to address the specific requirements of PCB design and contract manufacturing.”

* EVE announced a partnership with ARM to integrate the tools of the two companies “to produce a high-end co-emulation environment.” Per the Press Release, “The ARM RealView SoC Designer ESL design software will be coupled and integrated with EVE's ZeBu hardware-assisted verification platform for early architectural exploration and prototyping … Designs can be progressively moved from simulation into emulation by removing models from the SoC Designer tool and synthesizing the RTL on ZeBu.”

Lauro Rizzatti, is quoted in the Press Release: "The co-emulation platform offered through the integration of the SoC Designer tool and ZeBu is an effective means of deploying system level models of ARM and third party IP."

* Elliptic Semiconductor and Impinj announced an agreement to “collaboratively develop a secure, standards-based SoC reference architecture for content protection applications such as digital rights management and conditional access. The reference architecture integrates Elliptic’s embedded security module and Impinj’s AEON multi-time programmable nonvolatile memory core to counteract embedded system threats such as reverse chip engineering and cryptographic algorithm security breaches … [The companies hope to] utilize security technologies that have been validated through extensive testing with real-world applications by the
National Institute of Science and Technology, ANSI and the NSA; leverage logic based NVM for storage of embedded, on-chip secrets and root-of- trust; and define a security boundary within the SoC that ensures that only fully validated software processes and local hardware resources can access secret keying material.”

* eSOL announced that its eT-Kernel Multi-Core Edition RTOS suites are now available for NEC Electronics’ NaviEngine system LSI chip for automotive navigation systems. In related news, eSOL also announced an agreement with ARM to support ARM’s new Cortex-A9 MPCore multi-core processor with eSOL’s eT-Kernel Multi-Core Edition RTOS.

* Extreme DA announced the company’s GoldTime timing analyzer has been selected as the reference tool for STARC’s SSTA flow, v1.5. STARC says it expects to release the v1.5 flow to its member companies shortly.

* Hantro announced that Atmel Corp. licensed the Hantro’s new 8170 multi-format video decoder RTL. Atmel says it will “integrate the decoder alongside an ARM9 processor core in a chip targeted for multifunctional next-generation video devices such as personal media players and navigation systems.”

* Impinj announced that the company’s customers have shipped more than 600 million chips containing Impinj’s AEON NVM cores since 2003. That’s a lotta chips.

* IPextreme Inc. says it is “promoting” Infineon MLI and MSC high-speed serial interface standards by making the specifications openly available. Per the Press Release: “The Multiprocessor Link Interface (MLI) is a fast serial interface for inter-processor communications; enabling heterogeneous parallel processing through just a few pins. Similarly the MicroSecond Channel (MSC) controls power modules such as electric motors, fuel injectors and ignition coils, while minimizing pin count and system cost. Both specifications can be downloaded from the IPextreme website at no cost. Anyone agreeing to the click-through license terms is free to implement and
use the specifications. Infineon’s implementations of MLI and MSC are also available from IPextreme as silicon-proven IP cores.”

IPextreme CEO Warren Savage is quoted: “Standards drive cost efficiency into markets by allowing interoperability between suppliers and providing customers with choices. We are excited to be able to provide these technological advances to automotive semiconductor suppliers all over the world.” Please note that Warren Savage is currently writing a blog about true SystemVerilog interoperability. It’s recommended that you go out and read his thoughts on the IPExtreme website.

* Jasper Design Automation announced GamePlan Verification Planner version 1.2, which the company describes as “a powerful tool for generating and tracking verification plans. [Version 1.2] includes the ability to import verification results, [and] delivers improved search capabilities, active hyperlinks in analysis views for easy organization, and a new Undo/Redo feature for improved usability.”

Jasper’s GamePlan Product Manager Jay Littlefield, is quoted: "Since verification plan data and tracked results are stored together in an open XML format, users can now easily extract custom data sets for analysis, in addition to generating GamePlan's powerful standard reports. The flexibility of GamePlan provides a means to integrate disparate technologies, such as formal and simulation, into a single cohesive verification effort."

* In related news, Jasper Design Automation also announced JasperGold Verification System v4.5, which the company says “delivers support for liveness properties, enhanced engine performance and support for properties containing multiple clocks, and includes improved initialization performance for easier formal analysis and automatic property grouping for faster proofs.”

Jasper VP of Marketing, Craig Cochran, is quoted: "With its liveness property support, greater performance and powerful new modeling features, JasperGold v4.5 delivers sophisticated formal verification capabilities while minimizing the effort to attain high-leverage results. These new capabilities have been driven by real-world deployment within our customers' verification environments, in turn propelling the company's methodology and technology development to make Jasper the leader in successful deployment of formal verification."

* The MathWorks announced Embedded MATLAB, which the company says “enables MATLAB users to generate highly efficient, embeddable C code directly from MATLAB programs, avoiding the common, time-consuming and error-prone process of rewriting MATLAB algorithms in C … Embedded MATLAB supports many high-level MATLAB language features, such as multidimensional arrays, real and complex numbers, structures, flow control, and subscripting … The conversion to C code is performed by Real-Time Workshop, [which] automatically produces embedded C that is comparable to hand coding in size, performance, and memory use.”

Matt Schurman, CTO at GlucoLight, offered testimonial in the Press Release: “By introducing the Embedded MATLAB language subset and Simulink in our design process, we virtually eliminated the errors previously experienced with manual code translation from MATLAB to C. At the same time we shortened the development of subsequent product generations - from design all the way to implementation”

* Mentor Graphics announced additional features in its TestKompress ATPG tool that the company says will “address the industry’s increasing demand for scan test compression … The achievable level of compression [is increased] by providing a more efficient way to handle ‘X-states.’ X’s are unknown states that can arise during manufacturing test. X’s can result in a loss of test coverage if not handled properly. The patented Xpress compactor innovation [in TestKompress, combines] sophisticated embedded test data selection circuitry with an advanced software control algorithm. Because Xpress technology masks the effects of X’s
more efficiently, test patterns can be smaller and more highly compressed.”

* Mentor Graphics also announced its Precision RTL Plus Synthesis FPGA design tool, which the company says “provides several industry-first capabilities that enable every designer, regardless of level of expertise, to reach timing closure faster, minimize the impact of late cycle design changes, and make efficient use of FPGA architectural blocks. The new tool incorporates three innovative capabilities: (1) multi-vendor physically aware synthesis, which unlike other physical synthesis tools, improves design performance for a wide range of devices from multiple vendors; (2) the industry’s first incremental synthesis that is fully automatic, reducing runtime
by efficiently processing late cycle design changes; and (3) a unique resource management technology for optimized design performance.” Testimonials were provided in the Press Release from Altera,

* MIPS Technologies announced that the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute has licensed MIPS’ low-power MIPS32 M4K processor core “for the development of advanced H.264 video processing applications.”

Raymond Chiu, VP at ASTRI, is quoted in the Press Release: “With the emergence of H.264 as the preferred standard for high-quality media distribution and compression, our customers require video processing solutions that offer lower power consumption and system costs without sacrificing performance. Leveraging MIPS’ commanding presence in digital consumer applications and the area and power efficiency of the powerful M4K core enables us to deliver innovative designs that shorten production cycles and accelerate time-to-market.”

* Pyxis Technology announced NexusRoute, which the company describes as “the industry's only DFM-aware, yield-driven auto router that comprehends and optimizes manufacturability and yield concurrently with the actual routing and timing closure process. Architected for process technologies of 65 nanometers and below, NexusRoute … can be integrated into existing design flows using open industry standard interfaces. [Benefits include] scaling with newer technology, handling new complex design rules of nanometer technology, and simultaneously optimizing design for timing, manufacturability and yield, which delivers up to a 10 percent increase in yield over
existing solutions. ”

Relevant to the announcement, I had a lengthy phone call with Pyxis CEO Phil Bishop and company VP of Marketing Mitch Heins. Bishop said, “The existing industry approach to DFM is layered, iterative, and includes antiquated flows. There’s just not enough manufacturing data or runtime data in those flows. What differentiates Pyxis from other DFM-oriented players is that we’re about implementation. We’ve actually embedded the [crucial] embedded analysis [data] into our router.”

Mitch Heins added, “We’ve taken a fresh approach to attaching the DFM problem. We don’t necessarily believe that smaller and tighter [design rules] are better. The other guys are bolting DFM solutions onto [their existing flows], but that’s like putting wings on a bus. It won’t be optimal no matter how it works. We’re about a correct-by construction approach. We’re not just working to optimize timing or area, but also working to optimize manufacturability and yield-aware routing while we’re doing it.”

Phil said, “Other DFM players are doing routing layer by layer. Pyxis, on the other hand, does 3D wire balancing, optimizing across those layers. The big difference is in the concurrency with which we do the layout. [In particular], we have 34 different DFM rules, which makes for a more optimized layout. And, we’re working closely with PDF Solutions and Brian [recently acquired by ASML] to improve the process. [And while] Pyxis is definitely a products company, we also have a service offering that is allowing us to [demonstrate the solution] to our customers.”

* In related news, Pyxis Technology announced it is delivering software products based on a multi-year license agreement with PDF Solutions. The companies say they’ve been working together since early 2006 to “leverage the pDfx technology to address manufacturing complexities of routing in advanced technology nodes. The incorporation of pDfx into NexusRoute is designed to deliver faster design closure and yield ramp to clients and better predicted yield for designers by bringing real world manufacturing data directly into the integrated circuit (IC) implementation phase. “

* Silicon & Software Systems Ltd. announced that NXP used “a full suite of IC, software and hardware design capabilities” from S3 in developing NXP’s newest STB100 SoC-based platform for consumer set top box (STB) applications. NXP VP & GM, Guus Frericks, is quoted in the Press Release: “With the STB100 we are enabling rapid development of entry-level STBs by providing complete hardware and software turnkey solutions for global digital satellite, cable and terrestrial markets while also reducing achievable price points. Once again S3 has proven that their technical expertise, experienced resources and right-first-time delivery proved to
be hugely valuable to NXP in bringing our solution to market on time and within budget.”

* S3 Graphics, a subsidiary of Via Technologies, says it’s using Sequence Design's Cool Products “for accelerated design closure, achieving 1GHz performance in a single pass, when implementing their next-generation 3D graphics chips … The next generation chip [includes] over 10M instances, multiple clocks ranging from 800MHz to1GHz, 90-nanometer Fujitsu high performance libraries, and mixed Vt.”

S3 Engineering Manager Xin Chang is quoted: "S3 saved several months on achieving design closure based on CoolPower's ability to concurrently solve for, analyze, and optimize timing and noise. We use Sequence for final signoff with an Astro flow, and Cool Products deliver faster run time, accurate results, and reduced iterations between different tools."

* Simucad announced version 1.3 of the company’s VBIC bipolar junction transistor model, which contains “all important modeling and implementation enhancements required for modern bipolar technology and circuit design … New features advance the modeling of modern SiGe HBTs by introducing a description of quasi-neutral base recombination and band-gap grading effects … The electro-thermal modeling is enriched with temperature-dependent Early voltages and a nonlinear temperature-dependent thermal resistance for self-heating critical applications.”

* SMSC and Harman/Becker Automotive Systems announced the companies are “committed to open and license, on a royalty-bearing basis, their proprietary Data Link Layer IP for existing and future generations of the Media Oriented Systems Transport (MOST) multimedia network. By making available their key technologies for the lower layers of MOST, semiconductor companies will be provided an opportunity to manufacture and supply chips that incorporate an interoperable MOST interface.”

* Stratosphere Solutions and Cadence Design Systems announced a collaboration the companies say will increase yield at 45-nanometers through “improved process modeling, analysis and implementation flows that allow foundries, IDM’s, ASIC and COT designers to increase the quality of their results … The collaboration uses the new STTA features in Cadence Encounter [to achieve yield improvements].”

Stratosphere Co-founder and CSO, Prashant Maniar, is quoted: “The Cadence-Stratosphere collaboration empowers our mutual customers to significantly mitigate impact of process variation, improve performance predictability, and prevent silicon failures. Such collaboration across the value chain is critical to meeting the demands of cutting-edge electronic design for the foreseeable future.”

* Synopsys and Oki Network LSI announced that OKI achieved “15 first-pass verification successes of complex SoCs within the first year of adopting SystemVerilog and Synopsys' Discovery Verification Platform.”

Takahiro Kobori, Senior GM for the Design Business Group at OKI, is quoted: "After a careful evaluation of available solutions, we adopted Synopsys' proven SystemVerilog solution, including VCS, VCS Verification Library and the VMM, to deploy our next-generation verification services. Customer demand for our new VMM-based service has been very strong from the beginning, and today our new customers are choosing SystemVerilog and the VMM for their projects."

* Synopsys, as a member of the ARM Connected Community, announced “significant performance improvements” in the newest version of Synopsys’ HSPICE simulator has “enabled ARM to accelerate delivery of highly optimized memory and standard cell building blocks for SoCs.” Sounds like a win-win situation.

* Synopsys also made a joint announcement with Signal Integrity Software, Inc. to declare the integration of SiSoft's Quantum-SI tool and Synopsys' HSPICE that the companies say will “deliver robust timing and signal integrity analysis for package and PCB design.”

SiSoft VP Todd Westerhoff is quoted in the Press Release: "Quantum-SI extends HSPICE to provide a comprehensive design and analysis environment for pre- and post-route analysis that allows customers to seamlessly mix IBIS and transistor-level models. Our customers have benefited greatly from HSPICE's accuracy and scalability for detailed signal integrity and power modeling applications."

* Synopsys also announced that the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority has chosen Synopsys' Professional Services and Synopsys' Pilot Design Environment to establish the Dubai Circuit Design (DCD) center. The organizations say this “center is the region's first chip design center for physical implementation of advanced ICs.” They also say that “Synopsys supported DCD with guidance in hiring staff and by providing management and technical expertise. With the help of Synopsys, the DCD office is now operational and engineers are fully trained on the latest Synopsys tools and technologies. DCD customers are creating multi-million gate, multi-voltage designs in
90-nanometer and below process technologies … DCD aims to become the leading regional force in chip design innovation using state-of-the-art Synopsys tools, flows, and methodologies to implement complex silicon designs.”

* Synopsys wasn’t done, however, because they also announced that Global Unichip Corp. is using Synopsys' TetraMAX ATPG technology. GUC’s Louis Lin is pleased: "As our design complexity increased and our manufacturing process shifted to 90- and 65-nanometers, delay testing became mandatory to enhance test coverage. By adopting the TetraMAX at-speed test solution, we improved test quality for several projects. In addition, we used DFT MAX scan compression to reduce test data volume by more than 90 percent on several designs, and the compressed patterns were later successfully applied on our testers to verify working silicon.”

* Synplicity announced an addition to its HAPS (High-performance ASIC Prototyping System) product family, the HAPS-51, which the company says “leverages the Xilinx Virtex-5 LX330 and on-board memory to deliver faster ASIC verification. Previous HAPS systems employed daughter boards for memory access, while the new HAPS-51 uses memory located on the board and next to the FPGA device. As a result, the HAPS-51 system provides a cost-effective, high-performance prototyping solution that reduces development time for today’s challenging SoC designs.”

Lars-Eric Lundgren, GM of Synplicity’s Hardware Platforms Group, is quoted: “The unique features in the HAPS-51 system, combined with Synplicity’s FPGA synthesis and debug software, equips design teams with an outstanding solution for verifying the functionality of today’s most advanced and challenging designs.”

* TEA Systems announced enhancements to its Vector Raptor overlay and double patterning lithography control: “The results from a calculation of the systematic variations in overlay modeled data can be used as a feedback mechanism to scanner positioning or as a highly accurate method of estimation of positioning errors in locations on the field, wafer or lot not actually measured; full-wafer overlay simulation employs the systematic errors of the process to estimate distributions; and lot correction optimization for examining the effects of various methods of correction averaging.”

* Virtutech announced an API that will incorporate processor models from IBM's Mambo simulator into Virtutech's Simics full-system simulator. Virtutech would like to remind the reader that the company previously announced “IBM is leveraging Simics for its POWER Server product line. [Now], with this new interface, IBM can deploy Simics faster …By incorporating its Mambo processor model into Simics, IBM enables its developers to leverage the Simics virtualized software development platform to identify design issues that may affect functionality and performance far earlier in the development cycle, when they are much less costly to correct.”

Virtutech CEO John Lambert is quoted in the Press Release: "Our customers request more processor models with earlier availability for deeper and broader deployment of Simics. Our interface with the IBM golden processor model from Mambo is a perfect path to support this growing market requirement. Furthermore, this announcement is another milestone in the IBM and Virtutech relationship in support of IBM's POWER server product line development."

* X-FAB Silicon Foundries announced “major enhancements” to its XH035 0.35 micrometer analog/mixed-signal platform, which the company says offers “full modularity of digital, analog, high-voltage and embedded non-volatile memory (NVM) features, for maximum cost efficiency. This combination addresses the majority of advanced analog/mixed-signal and high-voltage design needs and, at the same time, provides a cost-effective way for companies to choose only those options that match their specific requirements.”

* In related news, X-FAB also says it has enhanced its existing 0.35 micrometer XH035 high-voltage devices to yield lower on-resistance at lower mask count. The Press Release says: “The new process features include a large variety of active and passive devices to address analog/mixed-signal design needs, [including] low-leakage and low-threshold core module options, additional primitive devices such as double MIM capacitors, 10k poly resistors and Schottky diodes, as well as HV depletion and HV thin gate oxide transistors.”

Jens Kosch, CTO at X-FAB, is quoted: “Our customers working on advanced analog/mixed-signal tell us that smaller, cost-effective chip design is crucial for their success. X-FAB’s technology precisely meets that need – allowing [customers] to select from a wide choice of options and modules, efficiently place more chips on a wafer at no additional cost, and reuse their analog IP.”


5 – News that’s cool …

Researches at Johns Hopkins University announced they’ve developed a thumb-size micro-incubator to culture living cells for lab tests. Per the Press Release: “Johns Hopkins researchers … used the micro-incubator to culture baby hamster kidney cells over a three-day period … a significant advance over traditional incubation equipment that has been used in biology labs for the past 100 years. The incubator’s microchannels, fabricated in soft silicone polymer material, allow researchers to easily insert and guide cells and nutrients during experiments, while the computer-controlled electronics keep the cells at the precise temperature that
enables them to multiply and thrive. The tiny incubator’s transparent design makes it easy to view the cells through a microscope or camera equipment without disrupting the conditions that help the cells to flourish.” This work is at the core of the PhD dissertation of the newly minted Dr. Blain Christen, who studied at John Hopkins with Dr. Andreas Andreou as advisor.


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-- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.