MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. The open-source Linux operating system will receive by far its biggest EDA endorsement next week, when Synopsys Inc. announces that it is porting its Verilog VCS simulator to Red Hat Linux. The popularity of VCS, the number-two Verilog simulator, pushes Linux much deeper into the EDA mainstream than it has ventured before.
Linux is also entering the pc-board CAD market. Dansk Data Electronik A/S (DDE) announced at last week's PCB Design Conference West that it has ported its Supermax E-CAD layout system to Red Hat Linux. The Danish company has just opened a U.S. office, in Newport Beach, Calif.
A smattering of EDA tools have so far been ported to Linux, including several Verilog debugging products as well as Verilog simulators from Fintronic USA and Avant! Corp. But none has anywhere near the market presence of VCS, which holds 20 percent of the overall register-transfer level (RTL) simulation marketplace, according to principal EDA analyst Gary Smith at Dataquest Inc.
"We've had an increasing level of demand from customers over the past six months," said Steve Smith, director of marketing for the simulation technology group at Synopsys (Mountain View, Calif.). Smith said that a Linux "infrastructure" has recently become available, with licensing from Globetrotter's FlexLM, Intel-platform vendor support, and the availability of commercialized, standard Linux versions from Red Hat Software (Durham, N.C.).
Synopsys is also acquiring a Verilog code-coverage tool, called CoverMeter, from the Advanced Technology Center (Laguna Hills, Calif.), and will immediately port that product to Linux, marketing director Smith said.
The big question now is whether Synopsys will port its flagship Design Compiler synthesis tool to Linux a move that would cement the OS as a major EDA operating system. But Synopsys' Smith said his company is seeing far less user demand for synthesis under Linux than for simulation. A Design Compiler port "will depend on the level of business we see," he said.
Linux, which was almost completely discounted by analysts and vendors just months ago, is suddenly turning heads. "Linux is making a very strong showing now that Red Hat has come into the picture," said Dataquest's Smith. By offering a standardized version of Linux, Smith said, Red Hat has solved "almost all" of the problems that EDA vendors had with the operating system, which formerly was available under many different versions.
"We're hearing more and more from some larger customers who are thinking very seriously about using Linux as the client operating system to 64-bit Unix servers," said Dataquest's Smith. "I've talked to CAD guys who say it looks very promising and is much better than trying to use Windows NT as your client."
The main impetus for using Linux in a simulation environment is to support large "compute farms" that divide up CPU-intensive simulation runs. "A lot of people are using compute farms for regression testing and bringing up hundreds of workstations," said Synopsys' Smith. "They're looking for lower-cost platforms."
Compared with Windows NT, he noted, Linux offers better compatibility with Unix, allowing people to use the same Perl scripts, regression tests and operating environments. While some designers would argue otherwise, Smith said Synopsys has found Linux to be "comparable" to Windows NT in performance and stability, although not necessarily better.
An early user of VCS on Linux is Lee Jones, member of the technical staff at Silicon Graphics Inc. (Mountain View, Calif.). "The attraction of using Linux is that we have something completely interoperable with our current [Unix] operating system," he said. "You can have all your directory structures transparent between the various machines."
Windows NT is far more widely used, and accepted, for board design than for chip design. But DDE originated as a high-end provider of Unix-based tools, so Linux was a natural move, said Richard Crews, technical support engineer at DDE.
"We saw a rising interest in Linux; it seems to be up-and-coming software," said Crews. His company's Supermax E-CAD tool provides pc-board, multichip-module and hybrid layout and is now available at the same $25,000 starting price on Unix, Linux and Windows NT platforms.
Synopsys' Smith said his company acquired CoverMeter because it wanted to provide a complete simulation solution. "A lot of our customers are using code coverage," he said. "We decided that only by owning such a capability could we deliver an integrated and high-performance environment."
The tool will continue to work with third-party simulators, including Cadence Design Systems' NC-Verilog and Verilog-XL, he said.
Along with the acquisition, Synopsys is announcing CoverMeter 3.0, which adds such features as testbench grading, automatic state-machine extraction, increased performance and an improved graphical user interface.
VCS for Linux will ship in July starting at $40,000, the same price Synopsys charges for Unix and Windows NT. CoverMeter 3.0 is available now on Unix and NT; Linux support will start in July. The price starts at $20,000 regardless of the platform.