Cooperation needed on integration with RTL
Tom Hill, system generator product manager at Xilinx Inc., said Xilinx doesn't dispute BDTI's conclusion that HLS tools don't fully abstract the user from FPGA RTL flow. Xilinx' place-and-route environment is "pretty feature rich" to enable experienced hardware designers to get the last 10 percent out of a chip, he said. Xilinx is hopeful that customers will adopt HLS tools and that the HLS tool vendors work with Xilinx to address the limited integration between the tools and Xilinx RTL tools, Hill said. "We don't view this as something we can solve on our own," Hill said.
"What we really need to do is have a little bit more seamless integration between the Pico tool and the FPGA software. I think by working together we can make it pretty seamless," said Vinod Kathail, Synfora's founder and chief technology officer.
"If you wanted to have a flow that a TI DSP software programmer could pick up and use automatically, with today's flow you would run into difficulty," said Andrew Haines, vice president of marketing at Synfora. "[The flow] assumes that it's an RTL guy running those tools. The perfect solution is not realizable today."
Mentor Graphics Corp. and Forte Design Systems Inc. are the market leaders in HLS according to market research firm Gary Smith EDA. Bier said two other firms have licensed materials from BDTI to begin self-evaluations as a pre-cursor to participating in BDTI's evaluation of HLS tools. But Bier did not identify the other two companies, saying BDTI policy is to allow participants in its benchmarking studies to announce participation when they choose. Assuming the two other firms move forward with the evaluation, it will be several months at least before BDTI has data on their tools, Bier said.
Bier said market leaders tend to lag behind smaller firms in participating in benchmark studies. "Whenever you are introducing a new yardstick, typically the bigger, more established players are more wary of it, and the upstarts have the most to gain." Bigger firms often don't participate until smaller companies tout results and customers begin asking them about it, Bier said.