Experts from Magma Design Automation, TSMC and Bosch predicted that the rapid pace of analog design innovation would continue. Magma;s Anirudth Devgan described a method for abstracting analog block designs with parameterized, model-based analog design acceleration. Devgan said automatic place-and-route tools were best used only at the top level of analog and mixed-signal blocks, rather than at the individual block level.
Eric Soenen, director of TSMC's Austin Design Center, said the most critical aspect of analog design was good layout techniques, especially those using smart matching, shielding and spacing techniques.
Bosch's Goeran Jerke described a formal framework for increasing the efficiency and degree of automation for analog design tools by representing abstract constraints and automatically transforming them to lower-level design constraints.
A new twist on the annual design contest this year was a clock network synthesis task. Twenty-seven teams (16 from the U.S.) entered, but only nine survived.
"Research in EDA tools for clock synthesis is not as popular as other areas such as placement or routing," said Cliff Sze, contest organizer and a research staff member at IBM's Austin Research Laboratory. "However, clock design automation is actually much more difficult."
The task involved distributing a 2-GHz clock across a chip with picosecond precision. IBM evaluated the submissions using seven benchmarks derived from its most recent 45-nanometer designs. It verified results with electrical circuit simulations using open-source tools and the Predictive Technology Model created at Arizona State University.
Of the three winning entries, one came from the U.S.: "Contango", written by Dongjin Lee, a graduate
student working in the lab of Professor Igor Markov at the University of Michigan.
"The contest was based on Spice simulation, and we found that even the state-of-the-art analytical models were not accurate enough," said Markov. "We had to put Spice inside our optimization flow."
The two other winning teams were National Taiwan University and National Chiao-Tung University.
"This contest is a first step towards capturing concerns of industrial clock synthesis, targeting rough estimates for real clock skew using Spice simulations subject to power and slew constraints," said Rupesh Shelar, a senior component design engineer at Intel Corp.
Prashant Saxena, the conference program chair and principal engineer at Synopsys, said the new clock synthesis contest should spur new research into areas neglected using more conservative clocking methodologies. The result, Saxena said, will be better algorithms and more highly automated clocking flows.