Interconnects for internal use only
Intel has made significant progress defining an EDA tool flow for its SOCs, mainly using third party software programs. But in line with its longstanding policy, it is not divulging whose EDA tools it uses.
"We have selected from EDA industry tools and some internal tools," said Singer, a former head of chip-design software for Intel. "We are not in the final stage, but we are in an advanced stage of convergence--in less than a year everything will be done in a converged flow," he said.
"Part of flow deals with the integration of components into SoCs with a lot of emphasis on post-silicon and moving to a volume ramp, external tests and test access points," Singer added.
|General manager of Intel's system-on-chip enabling group|
Testing and validating silicon blocks is one of the thorniest issues in SoC design with multiple chip and software companies offering competing products. Singer said he wants to see standards emerge.
"This is where I would really encourage IP, EDA and integration houses to work together to reduce complexity and cost," he said.
The situation is different in the key on-chip interconnects used to link silicon blocks on an SoC. Intel has developed its own so-called "fabric" of interconnect standards for internal use only and it has no plans of making the details public.
An Intel spokeswoman describes the fabric as "a hierarchical on-chip interconnect with protocols, verification environment, [design-for-test and -manufacturing] capabilities and [a] compliance test suite. In addition it contains Intel specific features both for backward compatibility as well as to support PC requirements," she said.
Singer said the fabric has interconnects that support Windows device enumeration for legacy PC applications. It can also accommodate " industry buses and sockets," he said, declining to provide specifics.
"The way it works is we identify the IP important to our products, and then find out they are on industry standard buses and make sure that's not a barrier," said Singer. "We are not endorsing or supporting any standards," he said.
Presumably, Intel does not want to promote the widely used on-chip interconnects developed by ARM, its archrival in mobile systems. However, venture capitalists have called for Intel to reveal what on-chip interconnects it uses so that their startups can plan to plug into them.
"I don't know why they are being so cagey about it, but at some point it doesn't matter depending on what they are willing to do to make things happen," said Gwennap of The Linley Group. "It's interesting to me that they are willing to use third-party IP which is something they haven't done much of in the past," he said.