Among established EDA providers, the advent of multicore processors is a cause for both celebration and concern.
The good news is that multicore platforms will provide much-needed compute power as transistor counts soar at 65 nanometers and below. But legacy applications could prove difficult or even impossible to parallelize. That could force expensive software rewrites, delay tools for the 65- and 45-nm nodes, and shift market momentum to a new generation of EDA startups.
A few startups will, in fact, step forward in San Diego this week at the Design Automation Conference, where support for multiprocessing and multicore platforms will be a recurring theme. In particular, multithreading and multicore support will turn up at DAC for static timing analysis, analog/mixed-signal simulation and design rule checking.
Startup CLK Design Automation Inc. will introduce Amber, a multithreaded incremental timing and signal integrity analyzer that claims a nearly linear speedup on multicore platforms (see May 21, page 31). Statistical timing newcomer Extreme DA is offering GoldTime, a multithreaded static and statistical timing analyzer (see May 28, page 45). And Averant Inc.'s new Solidify 5.0 brings multi-CPU capabilities to that company's formal-analysis tool.
Nascentric Inc. will offer previews at DAC of AuSim MT, a multithreaded fast Spice simulator for multicore platforms that the company will formally announce later this month. Startup Xoomsys Inc. will talk about XoomCKT, a forthcoming fast Spice product that runs on both networked computers and multicore CPUs. And Tanner EDA will demonstrate a multithreading capability for its T-Spice circuit simulator.
Larger EDA vendors won't be left out. Magma Design Automation Inc. has just rolled out a "streaming data flow-based architecture" for its Quartz design-rule-checking tool suite that's said to optimize Quartz DRC for multicore CPUs and multiprocessing.
Multicore/multiprocessor operation is a requirement for 65- and 45-nm design tools, said Gary Smith, chief analyst at Gary Smith EDA. If an EDA application is inherently parallel, he said, adding multicore capability is usually a straightforward update. Otherwise, "it is a fairly major rewrite, often taking three years to do. A lot of tools are in the middle of that process now, which explains why we are two years late on the 65/45-nm tools. This is a big problem for the [EDA] incumbents."
"Threading is absolutely essential for the next generation of physical implementation tools if we are going to keep pace with Moore's Law," said CLK president and CEO Isadore Katz. "The only way to keep pace with our customers' designs will be to leverage all of the cores available. The next generation of implementation tools will have to be 'from scratch' initiatives built around true threaded architectures."
All of the largest EDA vendors--Cadence Design Systems Inc., Synopsys Inc., Mentor Graphics Corp. and Magma--acknowledge that multicore support will be essential in the future, and all four claim some multithreading and multicore capabilities today.
And some recent tools have supported multiprocessing out of the chute. Sierra Design Automation Inc.'s Olympus- SoC, a netlist-to-GDSII suite introduced last year, was architected from the start for multithreading and supports Linux-based multicore CPUs today.