Apache's acquisition of Optimal is another clear signal that the EDA industry is adapting to provide designers with tools that allow them to work on the entire system, not just parts that have different physical characteristics. The design of PC Boards (PCB) was the first application developed by the companies pioneering the EDA industry. Schematics design capture was the first application sold with the proprietary workstations, following the blueprint Calma and Computervision developed for IC layout applications. PCB layout followed and another major step forward was taken when schematics and layout applications began to share the same design database. Analysis tools followed, aimed mostly to signal integrity and EMI applications. Manufacturing improvements allowed miniaturization of PCBs and increasing operating speeds and power considerations made the connections between the PCB and packages more critical.
Today's applications are very power sensitive, both because all of the applications are sensitive to thermal conditions, and because portable applications must conserve power as much as possible. The I/O functions are critical in this context, because they generally require the highest power value available in the IC, and because they connect the die, whose environment is controllable by IC designers, with the outside portion of the system, which has normally been fixed. This fact is proving unworkale and a few EDA vendors have started to offer tools that allow the design of both the die and the package concurrently as an integrated system. Therefore the package characteristics can now be taken into consideration while planning the IC power busget and while performing the place and route of the IC.
The electrical and mechanical characteristics of the package are an integral part of the PCB design, so the often lamented absence of tools and papers dedicated to PCB issues at DAC is likely to be a thing of the past. I find it interesting that the DFM sector is the vehicle for this re-introduction, since many questions were asked - even during the last DAC - about the viability of some of the startup companies addressing the market segment.
See also Apache to Acquire Optimal