I view a panel as successful when I leave the room knowing
more than when I came in. Such was the case at the "What keeps you up at night"
panel at DVCon Feb. 24, which offered some interesting, provocative, and in
several cases surprising perspectives about challenges and solutions in IC
design and verification.
Moderator J.L. Gray, verification consultant at Verilab and author of the Cool Verification blog, said the
purpose of the panel was to "let people purge, get things off their chests, and
have a good discussion to see what kinds of solutions we can come up with."
While previous DVCon "Industry Leaders" panels included EDA CEOs or
representatives, this year's panel was very different. Participants were:
Gary, vice president of professional services at Numetrics Management Systems, a
provider of enterprise software tools for IC companies.
Goodenough, worldwide director of design technology at ARM Ltd.
Pillia, senior manager of process, circuit and technologies at AMD.
Crocker, vice president of engineering at design services firm Paradigm Works.
Melamed, director of engineering at digital media device provider Ambarella.
Following are some of the conclusions I found most
The "What keeps you up
at night" panel included John Goodenough, Victor Melamed, Sheela Pillia,
Gary, and Jim Crocker (left to right).
Analog models come
too late, or are just plain wrong
Pillia noted that her group works with mixed-signal blocks
with small amounts of digital content. Verification starts with the digital
part, but the analog model comes too late. "We are trying to come up with a
solution to get an architectural model up front," she said. She also noted that
Verilog-AMS is too slow, and that AMD uses a "homegrown" simulation tool that
requires a lot of hand-holding.
"When I ask an analog designer to give me a model so I can
start verifying, they give me something that is similar but not exactly the
same as what they're designing," said Melamed. "My struggle is to convince them
that what they give me has to reflect what they're doing."
Flows are more
important than methodologies or standards
"Asking about methodology is the wrong question," Goodenough
said. "Asking about workflow is the right question, because that's what impacts
cost and schedule. There is no end to clever languages. It's more about how you
use them in the workflow." He noted, however, that "some languages allow us to
be more productive, and some allow easier SoC integration."
People are more
important than anything...but training is lacking
Kelly, CEO of Verilab, spoke from the audience to say that a quality
verification team is the key to reaching time-to-market. "I would much rather have a mediocre tool flow and great
engineers than a great tool flow and mediocre engineers," he said.
This comment touched off a discussion about the lack of
training for new verification engineers, and the failure of universities to
prepare new engineers for the real world. "I see a lot of resumes from young
engineers coming from school," said Crocker. "There is no adequate software
training for people going into this [verification] business."
"Verification is a mix of hardware and software," Melamed
said. "New college grads who know a lot about software and a little about
hardware do okay. Those who know a lot about hardware and have only rudimentary
ideas about software don't do very well."
(Note: Last year I blogged about the Cadence
Academic Network, which was set up to help universities train new engineers
for real-world occupations).
There can be a
"negative benefit" from IP reuse
If silicon IP is not easy to integrate and reuse, it can
actually hurt more than it helps, according to Gary. "When the reusable design data falls
below 50 percent, the benefit in terms of effort savings is almost zero," he
said. "At lower levels, it costs more to try and reuse IP than to build from
Open source IP is not
An audience member asked if open-source IP will help
engineers sleep a little better. Apparently not. "There is no free lunch,"
Goodenough said. He noted that the software community is large enough to
support and maintain open source, but the IC design community is much, much
"Okay, so you get some open-source VIP and run it in
simulation," Melamed said. "When it core dumps, who do you call?"
85 percent of
projects are missing schedules
Numetrics helps IC design companies optimize staffing and
productivity, and it's a challenge. "We try to keep design cycles short," Gary said. "The reality
is that 85 percent of the projects out there are missing their schedules, and
unfortunately they're off by 10 to 150 percent. Quantifying tasks is a critical
The $50 question: one
vendor or two?
Before the panel, moderator J.L. Gray put out a request for
questions and offered a $50 prize for the best question. It was: "Is what keeps
you up at night the fact that you went to bed with only one vendor, or more
than one vendor?"
If you stick with one vendor, Melamed said, you miss the
"flexibility and opportunity" of having two. But having to deal with two or
more vendors causes a lot of pain. He then expressed the hope that OVM and VMM
will combine into one methodology. As I noted in a recent
blog, that is one goal that's now within reach.
Photo by Joe Hupcey