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Virtuoso becomes a 'native' OpenAccess application

Posted: 13 Sep 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cadence Design Systems? Virtuoso? OpenAccess? design platforms? Richard Goering?

Cadence Design Systems is rolling out a new version of its Virtuoso custom design platform this week. The release offers a constraint-driven design flow and is built on top of the OpenAccess database.

The Virtuoso platform was launched about five years ago, but the core technology has been around since Cadence was founded in 1987. Virtuoso serves analog/mixed-signal and custom digital designers, including developers of microprocessors, memories and standard cell libraries. Some 20,000 designers use Virtuoso, said Anthony Gadient, group product marketing director for the platform.

The biggest change may be something that's unseena change in database. With this release, the venerable Cadence CDBA database goes away, and Virtuoso becomes a "native" OpenAccess application. "This new Virtuoso platform and all future releases will be exclusively on OpenAccess," Gadient said.

OpenAccess standard
The main benefit of OpenAccess, which is emerging as an industry standard through the Silicon Integration Initiative (Si2), is the potential it offers for interoperability with other OpenAccess-compliant applications. That includes Cadence's Encounter digital design system. Further, said Gadient, OpenAccess lets Virtuoso designers deal with a single technology file for process information. The cost of ownership is lower, he said, because all tools potentially run off a single representation and don't require multiple setups.

There is, however, a great deal of legacy design work done using CDBA. Gadient said Cadence has developed migration tools that will "seamlessly" move user design information from CDBA to OpenAccess. Utilities will help move tool setups as well, such as scripts and simulation strategies, he said.

The database migration took some work. "There was a significant rewrite of all of the database interface code, and the underlying applications had to change as well," Gadient said.

Also new in the latest Virtuoso release is an integrated design environment that provides a single "cockpit" for both logical and physical design. In the past, schematics and layout employed different user interfaces. "At 90nm and below, the physics of the design process really require that the front-end electrical design and back-end physical design be much more tightly coupled than in the past," Gadient said.

Constraint-driven design
Another new feature in Virtuoso is an automated constraint-driven methodology. Designers can place constraints on the schematic that are carried over to physical layout. Constraints can also be set within the layout environment. And a communications mechanism shows which constraints are met.

With Virtuoso's constraint management, for example, a designer can attach constraints to a schematic indicating that certain transistors need to be matched and symmetric. Or, a layout engineer might set a constraint to confine devices to a certain orientation to reduce area.

"We have had different tools in the past that supported different constraint mechanisms," Gadient said. "But what is really novel about this new launch is that we have taken those different tools and different types of constraints and unified them into a single constraint management system."

As it has done for other product lines, Cadence is introducing a three-tiered product segmentation strategy for Virtuoso. Virtuoso L, the lowest tier, includes the capabilities with which today's users are familiar.

The mid-range Virtuoso XL adds such features as design constraints, connectivity-driven design and advanced analyses. The high-end Virtuoso GXL adds such features as design optimization and yield improvement.

Cadence declined to release pricing information.

- Richard Goering
EE Times

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