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On Verification: A Software to Silicon Verification Blog
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    Who knows what the future will bring! After implementing neural networks in analog CMOS for my MSEE at Ohio State, I moved to Japan to do digital ASIC design using the new VHDL language and fancy logic synthesis technology from a startup called Synopsys. This introduced me to the wonderful world of EDA, where I was able to explore lots of other cool new technologies from test automation at CrossCheck to FPGA synthesis at Exemplar to code coverage at TransEDA to testbench automation and methodology at Synopsys. Twenty years flew by in the blink of an eye!

    I am starting a new exploration around the bigger picture of what it takes to verify and validate increasingly complex designs on increasingly compressed schedules and budgets. This broad topic ranges from technology to economics, from embedded software development and architecture analysis to RTL and circuit design; from personal productivity to distributed team efficiency; from novel ideas to fundamental paradigm shifts; from historical perspectives to predictions of future requirements. Please join me and share your thoughts on verification!

    - Tom Borgstrom

Rapid Prototyping & Core vs. Context

Posted by Tom Borgstrom on February 9th, 2009

In the rush getting ready to head to the airport a couple of days ago, I grabbed a copy of the 2002 book Living on the Fault Line: Managing for Shareholder Value in Any Economy by Geoffrey Moore, one of my favorite business authors. These kind of books tend to get dated pretty quickly, but I wanted to browse through it to see if it still had any relevant insights given today’s economic slowdown. And, in the worst case, it could help me fall asleep on the long flight to Beijing!

The part that really caught my attention was Chapter 2: Core verses Context. The author defines core activities as any behavior that can raise your stock price; everything else is context. For these core activities the goal is to “differentiate as much as possible on any variable that impacts customers’ purchase decisions and to assign one’s best resources to that challenge.” The author goes on to describe different scenarios for outsourcing, partnering, contracting or making based on whether the activity is core or context, mission-critical or supporting. But, the basic ideas are pretty simple: (a) to maximize shareholder value, companies should engage (i.e. focus time, talent and management attention) on their core activities and disengage on context, and (b) one company’s context can be another company’s core.

So, what does all of this b-school theory have to do with verification? Today, Synopsys announced an expanded Confirma rapid prototyping platform. Rapid prototyping is an increasingly important part of SoC development, enabling early embedded software development and system validation. With Confirma you can, for the first time, get everything you need to create a rapid prototype from a single company – design partitioning, FPGA synthesis, high-performance prototype boards and fully-enclosed systems, expansion boards, transaction-based co-verification interfaces, and prototype debug technology. Plus a single point of contact for prototype training and support around the world.

This opens up some interesting opportunities for chip and system vendors looking to focus their attention on core activities. Because while designing and building high-performance prototype boards is very difficult (1700+ pin FPGAs, 20+ layer boards, high-speed interconnect, etc.) does it really differentiate your company? Should you have some of your best engineers designing & debugging prototype boards, or should this talent be focused on designing and verifying your next product to prepare for the inevitable market recovery?

For many companies, the answer is that prototype design has become context and the smart move is to work with a trusted partner for prototype development, enabling key engineering and management talent to engage on core activities. This type of transition repeats periodically in the EDA industry. It wasn’t too long ago that some semiconductor vendors actually wrote their own HDL simulators for in-house use; today most if not all HDL simulator development has been “outsourced” to EDA companies. In the end, buying simulators from EDA companies actually saved semiconductor vendors money by allowing them to engage their attention and resources on core activities.

Having the best, most complete rapid prototyping solution is absolutely core for Synopsys. We’ve got top R&D and management talent focused every day on designing the highest-performance, most reliable hardware; writing and testing the best & most integrated implementation and debug software; and working with customers from many industries to conceive and plan even better prototyping systems in the future. Your context is our core.

If you are interested in learning more about rapid prototyping, please sign up for one of our worldwide prototyping management seminars or technical workshops, which we kicked off today in China. Or drop me a line – I’d love to hear from you on verification!

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2 Responses to “Rapid Prototyping & Core vs. Context”

  1. harry the ASIC guy says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m looking forward to finding out more details at DVCon, especially how all these pieces play together. Is this part of what you’ll be covering in your Wed AM breakfast session?

    One aspect that has always caused me some confusion is terminology. Accelerator. Emulator. Prototype. Virtual prototype. Virtual Platform. And some technologies seem to handle more than one purpose. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to clarify these so we at least have a common vocabulary.



  2. tborgstrom says:


    It will be great to see you at DVCon! For the breakfast session, Ken will be talking about how prototypes can bring HW and SW together earlier to shorten verification schedules for the complete HW+SW product. Should be a great session for all the early risers!

    I agree we’ve got a lot of work to do to sort out the terminology associated with prototyping and hardware-assisted verification. Hmmm…perhaps an idea for a new blog post!