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Tool gets a handle on voltage changes

Posted: 16 Aug 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:multivoltage design? archpro design automation? rtl simulation? mvsim?

As a chip designer for Intel Corp., Srikanth Jadcherla spent a lot of time working on multivoltage designs. Now he's launched an EDA startup, ArchPro Design Automation Inc., which is rolling out what it presents as the industry's first multivoltage RTL simulation product.

The company's MVSIM product provides an object library that lets designers describe and simulate voltage- scaling techniques such as multiple voltage islands and power gating. It runs alongside industry-standard register-transfer-level simulators, reporting the impact of voltage changes as simulation progresses. The product includes support for ARM's intelligent energy management (IEM) technology, which employs adaptive voltage scaling.

MVSIM is "just the beginning," said Jadcherla. ArchPro's CEO said his company's road map extends to a broad set of "interconnected solutions" to problems not well represented in today's RTL-to-GDSII design flow. "ArchPro is really about how to move to the next level and integrate all that we do to bring an IC product out," he said.

But you have to start someplace. "We are a small company, and we needed to focus on a specific area we know very well," said Jadcherla. "We have a lot of expertise in power management and we started focusing on a point of pain where we could add value."

Although Jadcherla was a lead applications consultant at Synopsys Inc. before launching ArchPro, he spent most of his career doing multiple-voltage and power-managed designs at Intel. Jadcherla started ArchPro in March 2004. Headquartered in Fremont, Calif., ArchPro has three employees in the United States and 14 at its R&D center in Bangalore, India.

Voltage spoken here

Rather than introduce a new language or attempt to add to existing ones, ArchPro has created an object library that allows users to describe voltage scaling. To use it, the designer instantiates Verilog macros. This process goes quickly, Jadcherla said; he cited an example in which a large system-on-chip (SoC) was partitioned into three voltage islands with about 10 voltage rails in less than an hour.

"MVSIM takes this object library and your regular RTL," Jadcherla said. "As you run RTL simulation with your testbench, you not only get ones and zeros, but also real numbers for your [voltage] variables."

There are no restrictions on the number of islands or the ways in which they're organized or controlled, Jadcherla said. MVSIM supports any arbitrary partition in the hierarchy, including nested islands and domains.

To verify power-management schemes, it's also important to model voltage regulators, Jadcherla noted. He said MVSIM lets users model both the digital and analog effects of voltage regulators. ArchPro, he said, has worked with early customers to create sophisticated voltage regulator models, and plans to train customers to build their own models.

Using a programming-language interface, MVSIM works with simulators such as Mentor Graphics' ModelSim, Cadence Design Systems' NC-Sim and Synopsys' VCS. MVSIM, said Jadcherla, "runs alongside and constantly keeps an eye out for anything related to voltage." He said MVSIM does not slow the simulation significantly, although he noted that the impact depends on how many voltage "events" a design has.

MVSIM uses the waveform display of the host simulator, with the added ability to catch errors, like floating signals, resulting from power gating. It also provides reports that include voltage numbers.

To validate MVSIM's capabilities with the ARM IEM technology, ArchPro and ARM verified a reference SoC design using an ARM926EJ-S processor and the ARM intelligent energy controller. Kevin McIntyre, ARM's IEM product manager, said he wasn't involved in that effort but views MVSIM as an important development.

"We want to get dynamic voltage-scaling-capable chips into the market that actually work, and these kinds of tools help to reduce the risk of them not working," McIntyre said.

"Since voltage hasn't been part of the design," Jadcherla said, "all that we're trying to do with multiple voltages represents a big infrastructure change for EDA."

MVSIM is now ready for shipment, according to Jadcherla. ArchPro has not revealed MVSIM pricing information.

- Richard Goering

EE Times

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