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Interview with SiRF's Nigel Foley on Low-Power Design

Comments(0)Filed under: Digital Implementation, Low-Power , Logic Design, encounter, digital Implementationg, Encounter Digital Implementation, low power, Encounter Digital Implementation System 8.1, encounter 8.1

Over the last three years, customers have been able to leverage the Cadence Low-Power Solution to tapeout their most complex designs. SiRF is no exception. However, in the case of SiRF, another secret weapon was used that made things even easier and cut design time significantly – SiRF leveraged the expertise of the Cadence VCAD Services team. “I believe we could not have met our aggressive schedule or power targets without the VCAD Services team help in ensuring our fast ramp up on low power tools and methodology,” said Nigel Foley, Director of Development Technology. We were able to chat briefly with Nigel about their project and their experiences using Cadence methodology and VCAD Services. Here is what Nigel had to say.

Soheil: What is your job function at SiRF?

Nigel Foley, Director of Development Technology:  My role is to enable a state-of-the-art EDA design flow which allows our design teams to produce world leading products in a short time.

Soheil: Tell us about SiRF and its product line

Nigel: SiRF develops and markets multifunction location platforms based on semiconductor and software products that are designed to enable location-awareness utilizing GPS and other location technologies, enhanced by wireless connectivity and multimedia capabilities, for high-volume mobile consumer devices and commercial applications. SiRF's technology has been integrated into a wide range of mobile consumer devices such as automobile navigation and telematics systems, portable navigation devices (PNDs), mobile phones, mobile computers, mobile internet devices, handheld and wearable GPS recreational devices, digital cameras and camcorders, mobile gaming devices, child and pet trackers, and GPS-based peripherals, as well as into commercial applications such as logistics management systems, enterprise and carrier LBS servers, asset tracking devices, and fleet management systems.

Soheil: What challenges did you face in your design?

Nigel: Our designs are composed of a sizable mix of memory, digital and analog circuits and being a mobile product, performance and power is critical for us. I would say that maximizing our performance while minimizing our power use is the most critical challenge we face during design. Striking the right balance which gives all the performance and flexibility required to our customers while dramatically reducing the power footprint is key.

Soheil: How did Cadence technologies help you overcome such challenges?

Nigel: The Cadence Low-Power Solution has enabled us to properly control and balance our low power/performance needs. Having a single CPF reference file throughout the process has lowered the barrier of entry to true low power design throughout the design process. The tools take an optional CPF file and everything is handled internally in the tool. This is key in particular for equivalence checking to ensure that functionality of your design is still sound even after low power constructs are implanted, and also for DFT implementations. Having CPF integrated into each step simplified low power design for us and we did not have any major issues with achieving equivalence correctness after each step.

Soheil: How did you leverage Cadence Services in achieving your goals?

Nigel: The Cadence VCAD Services team was critical to our ramp up on CPF low power design. Although all of the design work was done in house in SiRF, the Cadence services team were with us at every step, helping us learn how to properly harness and use the power of the Cadence Low-Power Solution. They were an excellent expert reference, advisor and problem solver resource and helped us overcome any issues we encountered quickly.

Soheil: Please describe the engagement process with Cadence Services?

Nigel: We started with a static project, one which was already complete but suitable as a test case. We asked the services team to go through that IC and convert it to a CPF low power flow. This gave us the basic building blocks and scripts, introduced us to CPF and pipe-cleaned the flow on a real project. When we started on a new project intending to use CPF, the services team was in lock step with us, with regular meetings to review progress and work from both sides. Often we would be addressing a particular design step and the services team would be working on the following step or another step in parallel. At all times we could see what was being done thanks to the collaboration chamber setup. All learning was effectively transferred into SiRF enabling us to be self sufficient going forward.

Soheil: What is your overall impression of Cadence products and services?

Nigel: The integration of CPF into all digital tool steps has been a positive experience for us. That coupled with the expert ramp up via the services team has made us much more confident using a true low power strategy going forward. But the biggest indicator of our success is the end result, our IC was first time functional with all low power modes working as expected. I believe we could not have met our aggressive schedule or power targets without the VCAD Services team help in ensuring our fast ramp up on low power tools and methodology. 

Soheil: What suggestions do you have for Cadence R&D and technologists to enhance its current products and services?

Nigel: Continue to simplify and integrate low power into all tools, it's becoming a necessity for so many designs going forward. Ensure that the low power workshop is kept up to date and highlights the latest enhancements in the tools. And finally continue to work closely with all the foundries to make sure that the necessary support infrastructure is in place to enable the tool flow.


Soheil Modirzadeh


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