Vendor Integration in EDA

The Natural Progression Towards Vendor Integration in EDA

Today I’m going to be talking about the gradual convergence of EDA single tools to integrated systems. In the early days of HiFi home entertainment systems, specialist vendors provided separate record (vinyl!) decks, amplifiers and speakers, then left it to the ingenuity of the customer to build their own system – they still do for the serious audiophiles.

Aside from some of the HiFi enthusiasts, after a while those same vendors realized that what the mass market really wanted was an ‘all in one’ system and started building integrated systems that looked good and sounded great in the living room. Some people had discovered that replacing apparently insignificant items such as signal and even speaker cables made an audible, but not always measureable, difference to their listening pleasure. What most of them eventually discovered, however, was that selecting matching products from a quality manufacturer gave better results as the vendor had done the groundwork to ensure it all worked as one system….

EDA and HiFi have many similarities;

  • Individual products for specific application.
  • Bundled systems.
  • Growth of specialist product vendors to address niche markets.
  • A realization that mismatched impedance has a real impact on signal quality (OK, perhaps the EDA engineer understands the technology a little better, but the effect is the same).

What has been the main driver?

The simple answer is speed, but more comprehensively, the relentless advance in the complexity and capability of today’s high performance microcontroller devices, and their inter-connect technologies. DDR3, PCIexpress, FPGAs, DSPs and Micro-Processors with high pin counts and very fast edge rates demand a more sophisticated approach to create, implement, analyze, verify and document a range of design constraints.

Just as HiFi enthusiasts discovered the benefits of integration, design engineers are moving away from individual point tools to integrated systems that provide a single repository for all critical data in the design flow, including constraints. The benefits include:

  • Eliminating the need for data translation between tools.
  • Saving time.
  • Reducing risk and minimizing the potential for error.

Fast capture through unification

Integrated Constraint Manager in Zuken CR-8000

Libraries of electrical, mechanical, simulation and modeling parts, assembled into proven schematic, and PCB layout circuit blocks form the foundation of all designs. The more complex part of any advanced technology design, however, lies in the requirement to conform to strict electrical rules and constraints imposed by the vendors of the core devices. A unified constraints database, tightly integrated with all tools in the design flow and accessible to all design disciplines, enables fast, efficient capture of even the most complex constraints from the very first stages of development of the design concept, leaving the design engineer more time to create and innovate. Layout engineers and signal integrity analysts are then free to verify and implement the design in the knowledge that all constraints will be accommodated, and that the finished design will conform to the vendor’s guidelines.

The real benefits of integration, however, are measured in cold hard numbers. If you can get product to market on time, on budget, and performing to spec, then an integrated design flow speaks for itself.

How about you? How integrated is your constraint management system?

Other blog posts of interest

Note: This blog post was co-authored by Craig Armenti of Zuken and Bob Sadowski of Quadra Solutions.

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