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Mentor revs autorouting with multiprocessing

Posted: 01 Jun 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Richard Goering? EE Times? Mentor Graphics Corp.? XtremeAR? Xtreme?

Routing a complex PC board can take days, delaying time-to-market for a product launch. Mentor Graphics Corp. claims to have slashed that time to hours with XtremeAR, which allows simultaneous batch autorouting on up to 15 workstations.

XtremeAR is the second offering using Mentor's Xtreme technology, which lets multiple design clients connected to a LAN or WAN simultaneously edit and update a common board layout database in real time. First out of the gate was XtremePCB, released in November 2004. That product speeds manual routing and is said to reduce layout time by 40 percent to 70 percent.

XtremeAR is aimed at large digital boards that are good candidates for autorouting.

It claims to speed routing by a factor of 10 over a 15-workstation network. The tool also makes it possible for customers to use second- and third-shift computing resources that might otherwise be idle, including geographically-distributed resources.

"Digital, high-speed applications are the primary domain of this [XtremeAR] router," said David Wiens, director of business development for Mentor's systems design division. "Large digital boards with fixed dimensions and a huge number of constrained nets can't be done interactively."

Routing in hours
In one customer example, Wiens said, a 36-layer optical switch PC board with 13,000 nets took seven to eight days to route on a single CPU. XtremeAR was able to cut that time to 18 hours.

XtremeAR accelerates the autorouter used with Mentor's BoardStation PE and Expedition PC-board tool suites, and requires one of those to run.

The trick to effective multiprocessing autorouting is partitioning the board in such a way that minimal cleanup is needed afterward. Wiens said XtremeAR distributes nets to the various processors in a way that minimizes "collisions," which can occur when workstations independently route connections that will collide on a real board.

The partitioning process is entirely automatic, with the user specifying only which workstations to use for the routing. The user can, however, ask XtremeAR to route only a specified class of nets.

In general, said Wiens, efficiency is about 75 percent, meaning that four CPUs will yield a threefold performance increase. Beyond 15 CPUs, he said, efficiency will be reduced; thus, XtremeAR has a "functional limit" of 15 CPUs.

One reason for accelerating autorouting, Wiens said, is to try multiple routing scenarios. That might help a user determine how many layers should be in a board or discover that the proposed layout is too dense. And that's hard to do, he noted, if autorouting takes days.

XtremeAR is currently available and uses the same licenses as XtremePCB clients, letting users decide whether and when to use the Xtreme technology for manual or automated routing. The cost is $50,000 per server and $15,000 per client, on top of BoardStation PE or Expedition PCB.

- Richard Goering
EE Times

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