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Do-it-all tools: Good news and bad

Posted: 01 Jul 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:blast create? all-in-one tool? integrated solution? blast fusion? dolphin place and route system?

When Magma Design Automation rolled out its Blast Create product, the message was simple: Here's one tool that does it all. Integrated tool suites that perform many functions are the latest trend in EDA - but that may be a good/bad news situation for designers.

We've already seen do-it-all tools on the back end, most notably Magma's Blast Fusion and Monterey Design Automation's Dolphin place-and-route systems. Synopsys has its Galaxy platform; Cadence has SoC Encounter. Call it a platform or a tool, the message is similar: One vendor provides a single, integrated solution with a unified database and a consistent timing engine.

The most recent do-it-all tool, Blast Create, is aimed at front-end design. It combines silicon virtual prototyping, RTL and physical synthesis, analysis and test. The message is that synthesis is a utility, not a point tool - a view supported by Dataquest, which sees the standalone synthesis market declining as integrated "IC implementation" solutions take hold.

What's good about integrated solutions is that all the pieces work together. There are no file transfers, no inconsistent timing engines and, one would hope, few or no iterations. Significant productivity and time savings can result.

The downside is that it's harder to pick the best tools for any given design task. Yes, all vendors have "open" systems--but how easy is it to replace a portion of a "do it all" tool, or to buy three-quarters of a tool if you don't want all the capabilities? If you've spent $225,000 per year on Blast Create, for instance, it will be hard to convince management that there's a third-party power or scan tool you need to add.

The era of best-of-breed point tools may be ending. Integration is great--but let's hope it doesn't usher in an era of being locked into single-vendor solutions.

- Richard Goering

EE Times

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