The challenge of tracking design progress is a shared problem for individual designers, team leaders, and project managers. At each level the ability to step back from just reviewing error log files and seeing the arc of the whole design as it moves forward is valuable. The difficulty of seeing the whole picture is exacerbated when design teams for a project are scattered around the world. To better understand the nature of the problem, Consensia surveyed a number of their customers to uncover what had been their biggest delay factors in getting to design closure. They learned some pretty interesting things.
First let’s back up and talk a little bit about Consensia. They are a channel partner with Dassault, which offers a suite of tools for managing design flows. A big part of the value of a design management system is the ability to track progress of the design process. Consensia delivers solutions based on Pinpoint, which offers a view of the design process that is accessible across design teams, project teams and geographies.
So, what did they learn from the survey? First off, designs have a tendency to appear 95% done for about 30% of the design cycle. Another big hindrance is trying to figure out where to start when confronted with hundreds of timing violations. The next problem customers had encountered was being limited in the number of “what if” experiments they were able to try given looming tape out deadlines. Another issue that came up repeatedly was communication and time zone barriers between ASIC and layout designers. Late stage power and signal integrity issues also were mentioned. Rounding out the list was needing to take time away from design to prepare for design reviews and the necessity of tying up expensive and limited EDA tools just to view and brainstorm solutions to issues.
Before talking about how these problems might be resolved, let’s dig in a bit and look at how Consensia’s Pinpoint works. It offers a tool agnostic design collaboration and analysis capability. Pinpoint can read design and layout data. It can parse and understand tool results from each step in the design flow. Most importantly it is web based and accessible by all the stake holders in the design process. Due to its ability to read reports and data from a variety of tools, it affords ways of looking at the design that are not available from the individual tools in the flow. Because it is collaborative the information it has aggregated can be seen and used across geographic and functional boundaries.
Going back to the list of obstacles, using real metrics from tool runs visible, project status can be observed much more accurately. This should mean fewer surprises when project milestones are due. As for where to start when confronted with a mass of timing violations, Pinpoint’s timing report for the whole design can enable a structured approach to timing closure. Also visualization of violating paths on the layout can lead to design insights that can greatly facilitate resolutions.
Pinpoint also lets engineers keep track of tool runs and their input data versions, making it easier to hone in on the best results. Because it is web based, Pinpoint allows full access to design analytics anywhere it is needed. This is a huge benefit when information on design progress and convergence is needed for design reviews and internal discussions. All of this is accomplished without the need to tie up EDA tool licenses just to review design status.
Pinpoint presents the data from tool runs and design progress visually and interactively to help establish an extremely accurate assessment of all the open issues, making tracking design progress easier and more reliable. Detailed reports including timing and physical verification are available. Pinpoint also graphs design metrics over time, so that trends in the design are evident.
Consensia heard feedback from their customers that they have seen savings of 12 to 18% in design time. It would seem that applying design aware analytics to the semiconductor design process is valuable. For more information on Pinpoint from Censensia, take a look at their website.