Software key to SoC design
Software key to SoC design
By Richard Goering, EE Times
April 1, 2002 (10:46 a.m. EST)
We've all heard that logic verification has become the biggest single bottleneck for getting systems-on-chip out the door. That's true if we're looking at hardware design, but if we cast a broader net, the biggest bottleneck may turn out to be embedded-software development.
The Virtual Socket Interface Alliance (VSIA) recently set up a development working group (DWG) for "Hardware-dependent Software" (HdS). This includes drivers, boot code, hardware-dependent portions of protocol stacks, DSP algorithms and the like. In several eye-opening presentations at the recent Embedded Systems Conference, the motivations behind this effort became clear.
Tim O'Donnell, VSIA president, noted that when his organization began its efforts, 90 percent of the effort in developing an SoC went into hardware. Now, he said, it's typical ly a 50-50 split between hardware and software, with the balance shifting toward software.
Bob Payne, vice president and general manager of Philips Semiconductors' ASIC Systems group, showed a Moore's Law slide with a different twist. If you've attended an EDA-related conference in recent years, you've probably seen the slide that shows the 59 percent annual complexity growth predicted by Moore's Law vs. the 20 to 25 percent compound annual growth in design productivity. That 20 to 25 percent growth rate is for hardware design, however. Payne's slide showed software productivity growing at only 8 to 10 percent annually. With Philips SoC design teams today, Payne said, about half the effort goes into software and half into hardware. Over time, he predicted, more and more will go into software.
Michael Kaskowitz, head of the HdS DWG and vice president of Mentor Graphics' embedded systems division, said it's not uncommon to find two to five software designers for every ASIC hardware designer. Wi th some SoC devices, he said, 70 to 80 percent of SoC development time may be spent in software development.
Standards for HdS reuse will help a lot, and for that reason, the DWG is working to define a hardware abstraction layer that will allow the creation of reusable software "virtual components."
The other part of the problem is cultural. Why is the EDA industry, which serves a much smaller clientele, five or six times larger than the embedded-software development-tools industry? Most companies don't assign equal value to hardware and software development. Those that start to do so will be the ones who get SoC devices out the door first.
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