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Deal with EDA's demise

Posted: 18 Jun 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:virtualized software development? innovative software development? embedded industry?

McLellan: The embedded industry needs to invest more in innovative software development methods just as IC productivity was dramatically improved with new design technology.

EDA is dead. Yes, it's still needed: We're not going to go back to designing chips with Rubilith again. But the reality is that fewer and fewer chips are being designed, and most of the differentiation of a system is moving into the software.

Most design teams operating at 0.13?m are never going to do a 45nm design and don't require the EDA tools. It's too difficult and too expensive. Besides, 0.13?m is just fine. An exception is if your production volumes are extremely high. Only then would semiconductor economics be in your favor. But most markets just don't need that many chips.

Additionally, increasing performance with reasonable power is a problem with no solution, and the challenge has fallen on software engineers in the form of multicore chips. Getting software to run on such chips automatically has been a research area for 40 years, so a general solution is unlikely to be imminent.

We are moving toward the EDA nightmarea small number of chips manufactured in enormous volume and customized by software. Many chip companies already have several times as many engineers working on the software compared to the chip. Since most of the differentiation of a system is moving into the software, consequently, the more significant barrier to production is creating software that is not late or full of bugs.

The embedded industry needs to invest more in innovative software development methods just as IC productivity was dramatically improved with new design technology. Today, there are a number of tools and techniques already available that can have a dramatic increase in productivity and qualitywhether the software runs on a chip, board or entire rack of boards.

Virtualized software development, in which the software is divorced from the hardware, is one approach that offers enormous benefits. By starting development before chips or boards are available, problems are found early, where resolution is least expensive. Entire multiprocessor systems can be stopped and restarted. Code can be run backward, eliminating the concept of a six-week bug.

Testing can be more automated, especially for the most complex systems that otherwise require technicians to configure systems for test. Multicore systems can be stressed by varying the clock rates to different cores or varying the number of cores in a way that is impossible with real chips.

Companies must focus on improving software development to meet deadlines and ensure the quality of the end product. With the added challenge of parallel processing, developers would benefit from a virtual environment where everything is deterministic, everything can be seen, everything can be controlled; and unusual stresses can be imposed. That's why there's virtualized software development.

- Paul McLellan
VP of Marketing, Virtutech Inc.




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