In the history of semiconductor design and manufacturing, the age-old concept of DRC rule-deck qualification for handshake between design and manufacturing still applies strongly to produce working silicon. In fact, DRC clean GDSII works as the de facto golden gate between a design and a foundry for manufacturing the chip for that design.
Today, we are designing at system-level, what we call SoCs. In an SoC, we are essentially interconnecting many different IPs together, and those IPs can be sourced in different formats from multiple vendors across the world. Looking at it from the top, the concept of ‘DRC clean layout at cell or macro level’ can be very well applied to error-free IP interconnection at the system level.
For an IP to be placed within an SoC without any error there must be a set of rules for IP qualification from the IP integrator’s perspective. These IP qualification rules can be used as golden handshake between the IP providers and the SoC integrators. These rules are framed based on the IP databases and formats used, tools applied for the design, internal consistency between the IP, design, and the tools, and so on. Like DRC for a particular technology, these IP rules for a particular design can mature over a period of time with continuous improvement.
So, do we have something in the market to ease and accelerate the IP integration process by providing a correct-by-construction IP which can be simply dragged and dropped into an SoC? Things are moving in the right direction with Fractal Technologiesadding Transport[SUP]TM[/SUP] formalism to their IP signoff solution along with their flagship product Crossfire[SUP]TM[/SUP].
Fractal Transport captures and exchanges IP qualification requirements, and provides input to Crossfire for IP sign-off between semiconductor design partners. The IP integrators use Transport formalism to specify their needs such as IP completeness (database, models, etc.), IP integrity (timing, power trend, cell elements, etc.), and IP integration (compatibility between IP and design tools, clock domains, etc.) in a formal way. By using Transport they can represent the IP qualification requirements in a generic way and maintain them to share with multiple IP providers.
The Transport maps the IP quality checks (that may be applied to qualify an IP) with the databases and models that are supplied with IP releases. This allows the IP integrators to capture the checks that are appropriate for various models in their IP release.
In Transport, the qualification rule-deck consists of classes and checks applied to those classes. A class is a collection of objects such as “all Liberty files”, “all noise-arcs”, and so on. Rules from the Crossfire rule-database are mapped to these classes to specify the individual checks in the actual instance of an IP release. Today, Crossfire defines about 250 different rules, each of which can be instantiated in Transport multiple times as different checks as part of different classes.
A key advantage of this concept is that the Transport qualification rule-deck can be continuously improved with repeated occurrences of particular design situations and re-used over multiple releases of IPs. The Transport and Crossfire are used together to detect errors in an IP, get them fixed, and signoff the IP. There is a mechanism in Transport to capture certain waiver specific to an IP. Also, the IP suppliers and integrators can decide for Transport deck to automatically capture exceptions for frequently occurring waivers, thus improving practical efficiency of Transport.
The Transport allows IP qualification rule-deck to become independent from the actual IP database or IP provider, thus letting it mature over time with new additions and modifications. A mature Transport rule-deck for a certain class of IPs can enable second sourcing of IPs without risk to the tape-out schedule.
This is a novel initiative from Fractal Technologies for IP qualification handshake between IP providers and integrators in an standardized way. Once this concept matures, it can open up a new chapter in the IP world for seamless integration of an IP into an SoC.
Fractal will be demonstrating the Transport technology along with the new capabilities in Crossfire at 53[SUP]rd[/SUP] DACin Austin, June 5-9, at their booth #1718. Stop by the booth to know more about this technology. Also, read their latest whitepaper HERE.