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Magma folds synthesis into integrated tool suite

Posted: 30 Apr 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:magma design automation? blast create 4.0? synthesis tool? physical synthesis? silicon virtual prototyping?

Proclaiming the "end of synthesis as we know it," Magma Design Automation Inc. has unveiled the Blast Create, a single tool that combines silicon virtual prototyping, RTL and physical synthesis, and analysis. Magma isn't so much offering new technology as a new concept - that synthesis should be a utility, not a separate point tool.

With Blast Create 4.0, Magma is hoping to bring to front-end IC design the kind of tightly integrated tool suite that its Blast Fusion offers for physical design. But Magma faces a daunting task in trying to replace the Synopsys Inc. synthesis and timing-analysis tools that nearly all Blast Fusion customers use.

Blast Create replaces two previous Magma products: the Blast Prototype design-planning tool and Blast Chip, which handles a combination of RTL synthesis and physical design. Blast Create incorporates the physical-synthesis capabilities previously found in Blast Fusion. It adds a new scan design capability and includes static timing and power analysis.

"Blast Create is a complete environment for the front-end designer," said Venktesh Shukla, SVP of marketing and business development at Magma Design. Together with Blast Fusion, he said, Blast Create offers a "single executable" for IC design, bound together with a common database and timing engine - yet open enough for third-party EDA tools.

Blast Create takes in RTL VHDL or Verilog netlists and produces a placed-gates netlist that can be fed into Blast Fusion or third-party physical-design tools. Alternatively, users can feed a netlist into Blast Plan, Magma's hierarchical floorplanning tool. Blast Create will handle more than 3 million gates on 32-bit Linux machines, Magma said.

While Blast Create mostly incorporates existing Magma technology, the "gain-based" RTL synthesis capability has three to four times more capacity than previous versions, said Yatin Trivedi, director of product marketing at Magma. Also new is the design-for-test capability, which checks for scan design rules and puts in scan chains but doesn't yet cover built-in self-test.

Wait for physical information

What's perhaps most notable about Blast Create is that it suggests a new way of looking at synthesis. "Synthesis today is doing too much of the wrong thing and not enough of the right thing," said Shukla. The wrong thing, he said, is premature optimization with wire-load models; the right thing is deferring optimizations until physical information is available.

Currently, Shukla said, RTL synthesis tools such as Synopsys' Design Compiler performs a number of optimizations, such as structuring, mapping and buffering. Physical-synthesis tools, such as Synopsys' Physical Compiler, throw those optimizations away and do new ones based on placement. Finally, placement and routing tools tear up the placement from physical synthesis, he said.

"Because there's a single executable, we defer a lot of optimizations until real physical information is available," said Trivedi. "But the biggest advantage from a user's point of view is that all those repeated steps are gone. Our flow produces better results significantly faster."

But Tom Ferry, VP of IC implementation marketing at Synopsys, said the tools in Synopsys' new Galaxy platform - Design Compiler, Physical Compiler, and Astro - continually optimize and do not throw away work from previous steps. He also said Synopsys has not seen Magma's RTL synthesis software in customers' hands.

Shukla said Magma currently has about 15 RTL synthesis users but could name only two customers: Sycon Design Inc. and Teradiant Networks Inc.

Gary Smith, chief EDA analyst at Gartner Dataquest, agreed with Magma's contention that synthesis is becoming a utility. "Some engineers are still using DC [Design Compiler] in front of their IC implementation tools, but that won't last long," Smith said. "The IC implementation tools rip out almost all of the DC optimizations."

Blast Create 4.0 will be available in May for Solaris and Linux platforms, starting at $225,000 per year for a three-year license. Magma has assembled cost comparisons that indicate Blast Create offers a far less expensive solution, and requires fewer engineers, than competing front-end environments.

NEC, Toshiba on board

Shukla said that all ASIC libraries qualified for Blast Fusion will work with Blast Create and that NEC Corp. and Toshiba Corp. plan to incorporate Blast Create into their design flows.

Blast Create supports the ".lib" library format, SDC constraints format, and LEF and DEF layout formats.

- Richard Goering

EE Times

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