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Toward Domain-Specific EDA

Is the tools market really changing, or has this always been the case?

Semiconductor Engineering


More companies appear to be creating custom EDA tools, but it is not clear if this trend is accelerating and what it means for the mainstream EDA industry.

Whenever there is change, there is opportunity. Change can come from new abstractions, new options for optimization, or new limitations that are imposed on a tool or flow. For example, the slowing of Moore’s Law means that sufficient progress in performance, power, or cost cannot be made between a particular version of a product simply by moving to the next node. The design itself must be improved, margins shrunk, or the product re-architected.

One such change that is starting to find its way into the design methodology is shift from static tools to dynamic ones. A static tool will look at the design and optimize it independent of any particular use case or scenario. Dynamic optimization adds one or more scenarios that are used as input to the optimization process, allowing the tools to perform more focused optimizations. This started with power optimization when performing clock or power gating, which used to be a static operation. These techniques can be improved further by knowing exactly how and when parts of the design need to be active. This also is driving the resurgence of processor design where custom processors can be created that are optimal for specific tasks.

Semiconductor companies always have created some of their own EDA tools. “In the ’80s most semiconductor and ASIC companies had their own tools,” says Simon Davidmann, founder and CEO of Imperas Software. “But then there were resource issues and customers wanted a more standardized approach. The industry transformed from proprietary solutions in the design and semiconductor companies to being an industry driven by standards, trying to build a common solution that was applicable to everybody."…


To read the full Semiconductor Engineering article by Brian Bailey, click here.