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The need for an EDA API

Posted: 01 May 2001 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:rtl synthesis? ie?

Cadence Design Systems' new Integration Ensemble (IE)?a single tool set that can take RTL code to GDSII layout files?is the latest confirmation of a new EDA trend?self-contained, single-vendor tool sets. The problem is that we are going to have four or five of these tool sets and only a concerted effort by the user community will keep them open.

With IE, Cadence's message is "we can do it all." IE includes floorplanning, RTL synthesis, placement, routing, extraction and analysis. The arguments for a single tool that encompasses all these features are compelling. With very deep-submicron design, you really need a unified approach to synthesis and layout, or you will go crazy with iterations and inaccurate timing estimates.

But Cadence is not alone in saying, "we can do it all." Magma Design Automation's Blast Chip also promises a single-tool, RTL-to-GDSII capability. Synopsys needs only detailed routing to offer an RTL-to-GDSII tool and that routing is now in beta sites. Monterey Design Automation and Avanti currently offer single-vendor layout solutions and may well add RTL synthesis in the future. We are thus likely to have five competing RTL-to-GDSII systems in a market that can at best support two or three.

All chip design environments span multiple EDA vendors. The vast majority use Synopsys synthesis with Cadence or Avanti layout. That is not going to change any time soon. Cadence is not going to displace Synopsys synthesis, any more than Synopsys is going to make Cadence and Avanti placement and routing tools obsolete.

No matter how integrated a single-vendor solution, there will always be a need to plug in somebody else's tools. No one EDA vendor has ever offered the best solution in every area of technology. No one EDA vendor ever will, period.

The additional tools you need could be in-house tools or third-party tools from hot, innovative startups. And sometimes, they will be tools from your "all-in-one" vendor's most bitter competitor.

The all-in-one vendors will almost certainly support standard file formats, but that is not good enough. What are really needed are application programming interfaces that allow tools from different vendors to cooperate in shared memory.

These APIs need to be open and available, not closed and offered only to vendors that are not a competitive threat. The best solution would be an open-source, industry-standard API for design data.

? Richard Goering

EE Times





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