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Intel’s Gadi Singer: Applications Drive New Era Of SoC Design

Comments(0)Filed under: Industry Insights, DAC, SoC, Software Extensions Tool, Bruggeman, EDA360, Singer, embedded

Embedded/SoC Enablement Day was a new event at the recent Design Automation Conference that promised to "shed light" on where embedded systems meet hardware. It got off to a very enlightening start with a Thursday morning keynote speech by Gadi Singer, vice president and general manager of Intel's SoC Enabling Group. Gadi's emphasis on systems and software set the stage perfectly for a subsequent presentation by John Bruggeman, Cadence Chief Marketing Officer, that illustrated some of the ideas behind the EDA360 vision.

I've heard Gadi speak in the past, and he has always had good insights about upcoming challenges in IC design. In this speech, he talked about how SoC design is much more difficult than it was a few years ago. To set some context, he noted how there are now hundreds of thousands of Smartphone applications, and he talked about how "smart," networked TVs are creating a totally different, highly interactive viewing experience for users. A TV, he noted, is becoming a "platform for application developers."

Multiple Functions

What are the implications? "Until recently most SoCs were single function," Gadi said. "Today the expectation is that they will be multi-function, smart, and connected." This requires "multi source, complex software" as opposed to a single vertical stack. Another tough requirement is the demand for increasing performance along with very low power. Finally, SoCs now have multiple, sophisticated subsystems, including graphics, media, communications, and more.

"If there is one message I'd really like the EDA industry to hear, it is the fact that we need to design systems," Gadi said. "If we design silicon, and then make sure software can run on it, we will not create the kind of optimized design we need. We need an environment that allows us to design and tune software and hardware together."

Unfortunately, Gadi said, the EDA industry seems to be focusing on revisions of existing technology. A bolder vision is needed. "We need to see the EDA industry fully supporting this expanding universe. It's about connected, smart systems. The envelope of design is growing very rapidly." Needed capabilities at the "edge of the envelope" include hardware/software exploration, high-level modeling, and "extreme" power management.

Gadi presented a mnemonic with examples of some of the capabilities that are needed:

            Automation - HW/SW co-design; move to formal verification

            Reuse - Incremental synthesis and emulation; mixed-level design

            Encapsulation - Formal verification of boundaries between blocks

            Abstraction - High-level synthesis; virtual platforms

            Simplicity - Tools for complexity estimation and analysis

"We need new capabilities for expanding the envelope, and we especially need capabilities around systems and software," Gadi concluded. "It's not that EDA is not doing its job. It's that we need to look two to three years out."

It's All About Applications

I want to focus on the talks by Gadi Singer and John Bruggeman in this posting, but let me briefly mention the two other presentations in the morning session of Embedded/SoC day. Walter Ng of GlobalFoundries talked about the challenges of advanced process nodes and the need for broad collaboration across the supply chain. Yervant Zorian of Virage Logic, who expertly organized both Embedded/SoC Enablement Day and Management Day, talked about IP scaling and the need to reduce SoC development costs.

During Gadi's talk, I was struck by how closely his message matched the EDA360 vision paper. That should not be a big surprise. John noted that he worked at Intel briefly following the Wind River acquisition, and heard Gadi's pitch.

"I believed what Gadi said so deep in my soul and so firmly in my heart that I left Intel," John said. "I couldn't wait because I thought the world was under transformation. I felt so strongly about it that we wrote a paper. I called it a vision paper. EDA360 is just an articulation in Microsoft Word of what Gadi Singer said today in Powerpoint slides."

He went on to talk about buying a Samsung 65" TV that comes pre-packaged with applications, and thinking about what it takes to deliver such a product. "That is not a TV, it's a network switch," he said. "How does a car, a switch, or anything become an applications platform? You have to start with the application. This is completely foreign to EDA. EDA says we start at the silicon and work slowly up."

EDA is "going to have to enable an entirely new class of technology, a new set of products and services and IP," John said. This includes a new class of solutions sold not to semiconductor providers, but to OEMs. Some of the capabilities will include:

  • Visibility and control over software, firmware, and hardware
  • Modeling for power and performance
  • An ability to test and develop applications before hardware is available
  • A connection to the implementation environment

John envisioned a world in which OEMs create system models that connect to implementation, and hand those models over to fabs who can implement the silicon. That means fabs will take on an expanded role with more responsibility for design, verification, and implementation. It also calls into question the role of fabless semiconductor providers, a role that will need to change.

The end result, John said, is that "the world will fundamentally change." And there's money to pay the entire ecosystem, including EDA vendors who make the adjustment to this new world. What we need to do is to "wrap our heads around this and understand we're in an application-driven world."

I'd say that considerable light was shed at this first session of Embedded/SoC Enablement Day..

Richard Goering

Photos by Joseph Hupcey III



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