Mentor Graphics has developed a way of linking intellectual property (IP) cores and HDL modules together in large designs without using code.
The company has added the technique to a heavily extended design environment based on its own Renoir tool, internal projects and on software brought in with the company's purchase of Escalade.
HDL Author, the replacement for Mentor's existing graphical design tool for chip design Renoir, uses a table-driven scheme to streamline the way in which blocks are wired together without forcing designers to instantiate and link cores using Verilog or VHDL. The new scheme is called interface-based design (IBD).
Paolo Spazzini, general manager of the business unit responsible for Mentor's HDL design tools, said: "IBD was born after working for a big Silicon Valley telecom company. They wanted to design complex telecom systems using interface descriptions.
"They really wanted a new brand new approach, to put a layer over Verilog," said Spazzini.
Mentor came up with a table-driven approach where engineers define the input and output signals between linked modules using a spreadsheet-like interface. Definitions at the intersections between ports describe how they should be connected. Spazzini said the tables can be used hierarchically and concurrently to reduce the amount of data that needs to be entered. Buses can be described as port groups to reduce the amount of data entry.
"It is a highly compressed view. A simple table generates more than 200 lines of Verilog," said Spazzini.
"This could be achieved using schematics but it can get quite tedious when you start having to link cores to 128bit buses.
"From the IBD representation, you can automatically generate block diagrams."
The IBD includes information on timing models and delay parameters that are fed forward, once converted into HDL, to a synthesis tool.
"This is a brand new piece of technology. We have a few patents pending on it," said Spazzini.
He said the environment built around HDL Author uses a new approach but the database format has been kept.
"We didn't want to put customers through the transition of databases. It is ASCII-based and quite easy to work on. Other than that, it is a brand new approach with some software inherited from Escalade," said Spazzini.