The electronic design industry is continually searching for new
ways to break down barriers and develop improved methods to build
tomorrow's products. Anyone who needs a reminder of the advances
electronics has made over the past several years should look at
today's cell phone and remember yesterday's portable telephone.
But the technologies that have brought us these great devices
are also producing headaches for today's design teams. Rapid
evolution of technology and dramatic increases in complexity are
changing the landscape of our industry. The greatest challenges we
face involve the convergence of design processes driven by the
proliferation of system-on-a-chip (SoC) and mixed-signal SoC
In the coming years, it will be virtually impossible to design
highly integrated devices without removing the barriers between
today's four distinct design domains—embedded software,
digital logic, analog circuit, and printed circuit board (PCB)
design. Within these four design domains, we now confront three
major areas of convergence:
As manifested in SoC designs, hardware-software convergence
presents difficult design tradeoffs between hardware and software
interactions. Software now dominates SoC design—electronics
companies today spend more time designing software than
hardware—and designers must find ways to maximize intellectual
property reuse and maintain consistently accurate models throughout
the design process. Decisions made early in the design process can
have enormous implications on the success and profitability of a
- Digital-Analog Convergence
The convergence of digital and analog presents challenges in the
fast-growing realm of mixed-signal IC design. The percentage of
mixed-signal ICs is expected to rise from 20 to nearly 75 percent
in the next five years. Designers must be prepared to make
strategic return-on-investment decisions, including the amount of
analog circuitry to embed. While there are many tools for digital
design and analog design, few are useful in both of these distinct
- Silicon-Package-Board Convergence
PCB design technologies have undergone a major transformation, from
essentially static to as innovative as those applied to IC design.
Custom packaging is the new standard, with analysts predicting
custom IC packages will triple to nearly 18 billion units by 2005.
System-level integration, faster chips, mixed-signal devices and
continuing miniaturization are among the PCB convergence issues
expected to have a tremendous impact on our industry.
Convergence requires that we break down these barriers between
hardware-software, digital-analog, and silicon-package-board. Of
course, designers can—at least in theory—overcome these
obstacles using traditional design methods. But those methods are
prohibitively slow for companies that recognize the importance of
moving their products to market quickly.
In an age when time-to-market can mean the difference between
success and failure, the challenge of convergence requires that we
address complex designs in a new way. We must embrace a vision of
design chain management that removes the walls between our internal
technology development and that of our technology
partners—both customers and suppliers.
We all have a role to play in this. Engineers are, of course, on
the front lines. They must continue educating themselves on the
latest advances in methodologies. But, like any carpenter will tell
you, they need the right tools to maximize job efficiency and
ensure success. Today's designers are looking to standardize their
toolsets by partnering with fewer electronics design
vendors—vendors that can provide complete, integrated
The pressure is on electronic design vendors to create these
tools. The ball is in our court, and we have our work cut out for
The good news is that we are stepping up to the plate. The most
successful electronic design companies are focused on integrated
solutions that break down the convergence barriers. We still have a
long way to go, but we've made a respectable start. For
- In the realm of hardware-software
convergence, available solutions include a co-verification
environment for creating mixed-signal SoCs and co-verifying entire
systems, as well as emulation and acceleration products that
provide efficient hardware-software co-verification prior to
silicon. In addition, designers have access to a rich set of
application-specific platforms and hardware and software IP for a
wide range of applications.
- For digital-analog convergence, there are tools that unify the
digital IC implementation path and the analog-mixed-signal
implementation path. Long-term projects and industry initiatives
bring these worlds together. Design flows must be integrated and
industry-standard interoperability platforms for mixed-signal SoCs
are being developed.
- In the world of PCB design, engineers now have access to
solutions that provide electrical analysis and physical design from
silicon through its package to PCB through another IC's package and
to its silicon.
Electronic design companies are increasingly looking externally
for cooperation, enlisting other vendors—sometimes even
competitors—as partners to provide integrated solutions that
will break down convergence barriers. These programs emphasize
sharing and integrating solutions.
Of course, our efforts are not entirely altruistic; we realize
that if we don't provide the tools that designers need—tools
that easily integrate with one another throughout the design chain
and tackle convergence issues—then our competitors will.
It is simple supply and demand: Designers are demanding these
tools, and electronic design vendors—having heard the message
loud and clear—are working feverishly to supply them.
So, as we look ahead to the next five years, expect to see
remarkable new applications that take advantage of design
convergence. And rest assured that electronic design vendors will
provide the tools, services, and infrastructure to help make it
About the Author
Ray Bingham is the president and chief executive
officer of Cadence Design Systems. Prior to becoming CEO, Bingham
served as the company's executive vice president and chief
financial officer (CFO) from 1993 until April of 1999. Under
Bingham's leadership, Cadence successfully developed the design and
methodology service business, further enhancing the productivity
and profitability of Cadence customers. One of Bingham's goals for
Cadence is to establish strategic partnerships with other
electronics partners to develop new solutions for the design of
Integrated Circuits and Systems.
Bingham received a BS degree in economics from Weber State
University and holds an MS degree in business administration from
the Harvard Business School.