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What Does The History of RTL Adoption Foreshadow For The Future of TLM Methodology Adoption?

Comments(1)Filed under: System Design and Verification, verification, IP re-use, RTL, TLM, synthesis

Cadence is in the vanguard of a movement to a higher level of productivity via the abstraction and automation provided by Transaction Level Modeling (TLM). The industry is motivated to adopt this new methodology by its promise of achieving profitable results through project predictability and system team productivity.Without such a methodology shift projects and companies are failing at increasing rates. The question many people ask is when will they move to this new approach?


Figure 1 - History of Abstraction and Productivity

As we work with our growing number of customers and projects we see some parallels to the previous methodology shift from gates to RTL. There were several transition points, or enabling events, that drove more and more of the industry to use RTL as the defacto methodology and golden source for their designs. I've begun documenting a similar set of events that will signal and enable the mass movement of segments of customers to TLM. I'm sure things will develop differently for TLM than RTL - they are simply different enough that this is guaranteed. There might be some insights to draw from the RTL market. So let's look back in time first.

Several enabling technologies and industry developments drove RTL adoption and helped the solution cope with the exploding verification challenges. Here is a list in general chronological order:

  • ASIC signoff libraries enabling ASIC foundary handoff
  • First Verilog simulator adds RTL constructs
  • RTL synthesis engines hit the market
  • RTL-focused fast simulation
  • Sub-micron timing modeling in ASIC libraries
  • RTL coding education offerings
  • Equivalence checking of RTL->gates
  • Static timing analysis enables static ASIC signoff
  • Availability of RTL IP from 3rd parties
  • Assertion-based dynamic and formal verification
  • Psuedo-random testbench
  • Verification IP
  • Verification planning and management automation
If we look ahead at adoption of TLM, we might look at the development in three stages, with specific events that might happen during those phases. The implication is if they "all happen" that they indicate the industry has moved to the next phase. What do you think of these indicators? What is missing?

Phase 1 - Establishing a working Solution
  • Enabling high level synthesis technology for real sized IP (not just small toy examples)
  • TLM functional verification solution that eliminates the need to verify function at RTL level
  • Publically available methodology for TLM design, verification, and synthesis
  • Well defined synthesis subset of TLM with multiple providers supporting it
  • First user company decides to start "all new projects" using TLM methodology/tools
  • Sequential logic equivalence checking (SLEC) solution
  • User companies establish internal TLM IP repositories and reuse methodologies
  • User companies begin experimenting with TLM IP exchange
  • Leading customers are presenting and demonstrating their success using TLM methodology
  • System level assertion based verification solution
  • Mixed TLM/RTL verification solution to accommodate vast RTL legacy IP reuse requirement
Phase 2 - Growth of customer adoption
  • Methodology alignment by 2+ competitive TLM solution providers
  • First successful full SoC TLM->GDS-II project by leading user company
  • 50% of largest 25 user companies have 2+ simultaneous projects using TLM methodology
  • Major foundry provides reference flow methodology and qualify key providers
  • 2+ user companies successfully exchange and reuse TLM IP
  • 3rd party technology/tool, education program, and deployment services eco-system emerges
  • Technical/trade conferences shift focus to TLM mainstream issues/discussions/panels
  • Editors/analysts are driving the industry discussion rather than EDA vendors
  • 10+ user companies are openly discussing their adoption success with TLM methodology

Phase 3 - Mainstream deployment and adoption

  • TLM methodology is recognized as the defacto approach for "mission critical" projects
  • 50% of largest 25 user companies have a "move to TLM as soon as possible" policy for new projects
  • Methodology standards bodies in every region are promoting their endorsed TLM methodology
  • 5+ TLM IP suppliers are operating, with 25+ user companies consuming and exchanging TLM IP
  • 3rd party technology/tool, education program, and deployment services eco-system thrives with competition
  • Every system level design conference has at least one TLM adoption/success paper/presentation by a user company

What do you think will happen? And when?

Steve Brown


By David Dee Brown on February 4, 2010
Looks extremly fascinating.

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