EDA industry pundit Gary Smithhas been talking about the electronics industry adopting an ESL tool flow for decades, so it was my pleasure to speak with Bill Neifertof Carbon Design Systemsat DAC this month because his company has been offering both tools and models that enable a virtual prototyping design flow.
Q: How many years have you attended DAC?
My first DAC was in 1994, held in SFO with Harmonics, an EDA company selling behavioral synthesis. Then Quickturn, then C-Level design (HLS). I’ve been 12 years at Carbon now, and was a co-founder along with Kevin Hotaling. Neither of us had been an executive, but had worked together at Quickturn and C-Level. We actually validated the concept without having a product, and eventually received $5M venture from Commonwealth and Flagship Ventures.
Q: How is Carbon Design setup at DAC this year?
We have a presence at the ARM Community, then a private suite for customer visits.
Q: What other trade shows do you attend?
There are other conferences, like ARM TechCon in the West Coast for October, then also Korea, Taiwan, Japan, China. In Asia the attendees tend to ask for a brochure, while at DAC they read it on the web. The give aways are bigger in Asia.
At TechCon there were five papers presented, which is more of a target for us.
Q: What did you learn at DAC this year?
I tend to ask others what they have learned this year. Software-driven verification is an important topic this year. Stay tuned for a new white paper on the topic.
Q: Can you tell me more about the Carbon System Exchange?
People can access models at our own web portal, last year we introduced CPAKs, which are pre-assembled virtual prototypes and software, hundreds have been downloaded. A new portal called Carbon System Exchange will let you download CPAKS to simulate Linux running on the A57 core or other cores, or show my systems with an A15 and Arteris FlexNoC, that narrows down the search. You can also search all systems with an A57, then display the systems available.
One software partner Kozio(from Longmont, CO), has a product called VTOS – Verification and Test OS, which runs on top of CPAKs. OpenSilicon does ARM design services, and is another partner that uses CPAKs. Other companies can create CPAKs (Arteris and NetSpeed Systems will both create CPAKs).
Q: What is that device on your wrist?
ARMdid a fitbitpromotion at DAC this year for a fitness challenge, so all of their partners in the ARM Community got one, synched with phones and a web site, tracking the activity in terms of steps, ranking the walkers. A guy from Netspeed is in the lead for fitness today.
Q: How successful has the concept of CPAKS become?
CPAKS went from 0 to all of our installed base using CPAKS, with over 100 now available. Taking IP from our partners and integrating it with SW and OS has been a new focus for us. Now, you can just download a pre-built CPAK and do some simple customizing. Evaluations can now take an afternoon instead of months of effort, which is much easier for us and new customers.
Our customers really want to use a Virtual Prototype, not code their own Virtual Prototype. The whole process has accelerated.
Q: Who is using your technology?
Our technology is used in Application Processors, so Samsung is a customer but we don’t even know all of the end products because there is so little to support. Many of their products are at the leading edge and they don’t want to reveal their use of Carbon because of competitive reasons.
At the Freescale Technology forum (Kindle Fire used Carbon), a next generation switch can be demonstrated even though it’s not realized yet, and engineers can see how fast it will run. The performance graphs show the precise performance going from 2 to 4 cores and plot the bandwidth. They wanted to show early customers the next generation specs before hardware was ready.
As systems become complex, if you can prove what your next system will perform as a model, like a CPAK, then early customers are convinced of your abilities as early as possible for Virtual Prototypes.
Q: How has business been for you?
We had 46% bookings growth in the past year. There are new job openings in both engineering and AE.