ESL is a convergence point between hardware and software, tool and IP. The Synopsys audio subsystem shows in several ways that ESL is very much alive and well...
Yesterday, I got to speak with Henk Hamoen, the Senior Product Marketing Manager for ARC Sound and IP Subsystems within Synopsys. Synopsys wanted to talk about their recently released SoundWave audio sub-system. So let’s quickly go over what it is, then we can get on to the much more important aspect of this release.
It is a configurable 32-bit audio processor tied together with a bunch of digital interfaces and codecs that support anywhere from a stereo through to a 7.1 24-bit precision audio stream that conforms to all the latest audio standards.
It also comes with all of the software to make it work on Linux and Android platforms. Synopsys is confident that this is the direction that IP will take in the future. No longer will individual IP blocks be the stuff that things are made of, but complete, fully integrated, verified sub-systems with all of the necessary software to make them operate. Synopsys estimates that it represents 10 staff-years of development and integration effort, 500,000 lines of code and 200,000 hours of simulation.
Now, on to the more interesting aspects of this release. The first is the use of the Synopsys tools to design and verify this sub-system. Yes – they used a Synopsys simulator, but they also used the virtual prototyping tools to verify the sub-systems architectures, data flow and performance characteristics. Yes – they used the Synopsys physical prototyping system to allow it to be used in a real-time manner and as a demonstration vehicle and yes – they are making these things available to people who wish to integrate it into a larger system. The adoption of ESL has been hampered by the lack of abstract models. Synopsys agreed with me when I said that this is the only model that a customer should really need to use during system verification. While RTL models are necessary for the back end process, any bugs in the RTL should be Synopsys’ responsibility and they have the task of ensuring that the behavioral models match in all important aspects and that the RTL is good. While I am sure there are many holes in this today, this is a good step forward.
I also believe that is complete endorsement of something talked about in my first ESL Book – ESL Design and Verification, back in 2007.
To take a snippet from that book:
In a mirror of the underlying technology, companies providing hardware solutions are now equally expected to provide the software components that complete an embedded system. It is no longer enough to provide chips, boards or even device drivers. The qualification of operating systems for the embedded device is fast becoming a requirement for system manufacturers. In addition, application-specific middleware libraries and reference application code for particular design spaces are also becoming a requirement to offer a competitive platform. Silicon companies are developing their own tools and tools companies are increasingly offering IP portfolios. Increasingly IP is becoming configurable to the degree that it requires specialized tool support in order to be used and these are typically developed by the IP vendor. The distinction between IP and tool is disappearing.
Here we see an example of exactly that. The configuration tool that comes along with this IP allows systems of many sizes and sophistication to be created. Synopsys states that within an hour or two, a user can custom build an audio sub-system optimized for their specific application, including both the hardware and software. This is a total blurring of the tool and IP boundary.
Brian Bailey – keeping you covered
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