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Is China Ready for Next Generation Mixed-signal Design?

Comments(1)Filed under: convergence, analog, mixed-signal, intent, abstraction, SoCs, silicon realization, mixed signal, mixed-signal ToT, EDA360, Tech on Tour, China, Japan

A Chinese design engineer told me that his manager once told him:  "You do not have to have creativity but you must know how to imitate!" This is kind of a reflection of the rapid technology growth in China for the past decade, where many of the technology advancements came from learning the latest and best technologies from the West.

When we planned for the worldwide Cadence EDA360 Tech-On-Tour mixed-signal seminars, we were not sure whether or not China IC design engineers would be interested in the scheduled topics, because most of topics are considered quite advanced even for the leading companies in the world. We more or less had an assumption that most of the mixed-signal designs in China are still at the IP creation level, while the activities on large SoC type mixed-signal designs are low.

High Interest, Strong Expertise

The outcome of the seminar series in China told us that our concern was unnecessary and our assumptions were wrong. Our first surprise was the high interest for the seminar from the designer communities across the three cities covered by this seminar. We had about 80 attendees in Beijing, 90 attendees in Shenzhen and more than 100 attendees in Shanghai. In Shenzhen, we had such a packed room that we had to add chairs along the aisle to accommodate people coming without pre-registration. Even our own local teams were pleasantly surprised by the fact that most of the attendees stayed through the whole seminar, which ran from 9 am to 5 pm with fully packed materials ranging from mixed-signal verification to implementation and sign-off analysis.

We were also impressed by the expertise level of the attendees. Even though the seminar was mostly a one-way communication with a focus on educating attendees on the challenges of advanced mixed-signal designs, occasionally there were some good interactive discussions, and many good, high-quality questions were raised during the seminar.

It is very clear that the attendees are in line with the vision we presented - which is that a well documented and production proven methodology is the key to address the challenges of future advanced mixed-signal designs. Such a methodology must unify design intent capture; design abstract creation, validation and integration; and flow convergence with the goal of first time right silicon.

Last but not least, some of the IC design companies in China have already started to work on very advanced mixed-signal SoC chips that are as complex as those we see from world-leading companies in U.S. and Europe. At a coffee break during the Shenzhen seminar, I had a chat with engineers from a IC design company and found out that the mixed-signal chip they are working on has such a complex floorplan that literally there is no clear boundary to tell which block is digital and which block is analog. In fact, many of the blocks at the top level are complex mixed-signal blocks themselves.

Concurrent Analog and Digital Design

One of the most useful topics participants learned from the seminar was the concurrent floorplanning and pin optimization that's enabled by interoperability between the digital design environment and analog design environment through the OpenAccess database. They believe that this new technology will enable them to significantly shorten their current project time on the overall mixed-signal design cycle. Another company expressed their strong interest in the full timing model approach (under the design abstract category of unified methodology), simply for the fact that accurate mixed-signal design timing and signal integrity analysis can be achieved using this technology, which was not possible when using the traditional .lib modeling approach.

It is very clear that the China IC design industry is rapidly moving into a new era where more and more design starts are leading edge complex mixed-signal SoC designs, just like the sudden spur of high-speed rail development in China.  As the world leader in mixed-signal design solutions, Cadence is very proud to be part of this transition and to provide better automated and more integrated tools and methodologies to speed up this transition. Even though we are reaching the end of this year's mixed-signal worldwide tech-on-tour, we encourage you to contact us if you would like learn more details of this seminar, and find out how our solution can help solve your mixed-signal design challenges at our mixed-signal solution microsite.

As a final note, the mixed-signal seminar series was planned to end in Japan. Due to what was happening in Japan following the earthquake, we decided to postpone the Japan seminar to a future date until situations stabilize. We are impressed by the courage and strength demonstrated by the Japanese people.  At the same time, Japan will need a lot of help and support to recover. Join me to give what you can afford at an organization like http://www.us.tzuchi.org/ or http://www.unicefusa.org/ . Thanks.

Qi Wang

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