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CoWare Says ESL or Extinction

Alan Naumann, President and CEO, CoWare, gave the second portion of the keynote this morning at DATE, entitled “Was Darwin Wrong? Has Design Evolution Stopped At the RTL Level? Or Will Software and Custom Processors (Or System-Level Design) Extend Moore’s Law?” Phew. The title of the talk was just about as long as Alan’s defense of the point that current problems in chip design are just like global warming and the extinction of the dinosaurs. On the bright side, Alan highlighted several key changes occurring in chip design and proposed long term solutions in order to stave off our collective extinction.

For example, in the past, new products ramped slowly into the market until reaching maturity after 3-5 years, and then gradually were end of life’d at a planned pace. These days, new products experience a tremendously fast ramp-up and quickly reach the end of their usefulness after approximately a year. That means that companies need to churn out new products much faster than ever before.

In addition to faster product ramps, projects today require significantly more investment in software development. According to Naumann, in 1997, a typical mobile phone had about 200K lines of code (LOC). In 2005, that number had jumped to 2.5M LOC!

Another interesting trend? Between 1985 and 2005, Naumann claimed the number of hardware engineers has increased by about 1.5-2x. In that same time, ASIC starts have dropped by an order of magnitude or more, and the number of embedded software engineers has skyrocketed.

So what do we need to do in order to deal with all of these changes in the chip design landscape? First, Naumann stated that individual engineers need to learn to model at a higher level of abstraction. Engineering teams need to differentiate their products using software and new architectures. Companies need to adjust in the way they work with vendors to be more of a partnership, and (of course) need to provide virtual models to customers in advance of real implementations.

One Response to “CoWare Says ESL or Extinction”

  1. Grant Martin Says:

    I attended Alan’s keynote at DATE and agreed with most of the ideas he presented (I would have to, as I have written books about most of these dating back to 1999, and like to think that many of the ideas have moved from “wild and crazy” to “now becoming part of practice” over the last decade. Another evolutionary indicator of ESL becoming more mainstream - all the copies of the new book ESL Design and Verification (which I co-wrote with Brian Bailey, Andy Piziali and a host of contributors) that Elsevier Morgan-Kaufmann shipped to DATE sold out! But they will ship plenty more to DAC and it can also be ordered from our web site http://www.electronicsystemlevel.com/ and from the Elsevier web site. I realise this is a somewhat self-interested comment, but we have also established an open forum on ESL at http://electronicsystemlevel.com/phpBB/index.php and are encouraging all to join and post articles, thoughts, comments and reactions. I hope that some of your readers might find this a useful contribution to the ESL debate.

    Best wishes to all my friends at Verilab (I know Tommy Kelly going back to the Alba project in the late 1990s in Scotland)

    Grant Martin
    Tensilica

Work For Verilab