Taken for Granted

ESL, embedded processors, and more

Day 2 of DAC 2010: The return of the platform

Filed under: Uncategorized — June 15, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

During today at DAC 2010 I was able to attend some of management day, which I had not attended before. I saw a very interesting presentation by Ken Wagner of PMC-Sierra called “The case for platform devices” which outlined PMC’s design methodology for chip platforms as a vehicle for delivering functionality to users. His definition included the well-formed phrase: “having only a fraction of its features active in any single customer application”. In PMC, this extends to actually having different bonded-out devices using the same core chip, with different datasheets and thus different instantiations or derivatives from the common platform.
He also said they sometimes do a “pseudo-ASIC” based on a platform device with some special design for a single customer. PMC-Sierra builds a business case for doing platform devices vs. ASICs, and count on a 2-3 year design cycle, allowing for feature change during the development, while guarding against constant churn.
PMC also counts for 1 spin of a platform device and don’t plan for a test chip. High mixed-signal content makes their designs more challenging than a pure digital circuit, and other lessons learned include the benefits of virtual platform models to deal with SW and system complexity, and the need for sophisticated power control mechanisms.
The theme was briefly reiterated in a later management day talk by Karim Arabi of Qualcomm when he also mentioned platform-based design as part of their strategy.

One reason I found this so interesting is that it is now 11 years since I co-wrote, with several colleagues from Cadence, “Surviving the SOC Revolution: A guide to platform-based design”. And our work started more than 12 years ago. The intervening more than a decade has seen the use of platforms for complex SOCs increase continually.

Interestingly, with EDA360, Cadence seems to have rediscovered platforms without any historical memory of what we did more than 10 years ago. Such is the lack of history in EDA and electronics! To quote:

“What they are demanding, in effect, are application-ready platforms with hardware and software for a given application, such as mobile computing. The completeness and relevance of an application-ready platform has become as important as having the latest, greatest, most power-efficient silicon. The newcomers differentiate their products by building unique software applications on top of those platforms.”

This could have been written 11 years ago.  In fact, it was and we did, albeit using somewhat different words. There are several relevant quotes I could use here, including one about prophets being without honour in their hometown, but I guess there is no need to dwell on it.

1 Comment »

  1. Taken for Granted » Day 4 and 5 of DAC 2010: SOC Enablement, High-Level Synthesis and Heterogeneous Systems:

    [...] usually in embedded systems. This included a keynote by Gadi Singer of Intel. As I reported in my note on Tuesday, the “P-word” (Platform, and Platform-based-design) have returned with a vengeance.  [...]

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