The era of “Internet everywhere” is creating a spectrum of applications targeted toward low-power and mixed-signal design, in segments ranging from health care to automotive to communications. Meanwhile, design challenges such as intellectual-property selection and integration as well as SOC- and system-level verification are spawning a whole new class of problems for EDA tools.
Mixed-signal design engineers face increasing difficulties in design and verification of complex mixed-signal SOCs. In a survey of mixed-signal design engineers during the 2011 Mixed-Signal Tech on Tour, a worldwide series presented by Cadence Design Systems Inc, the 561 respondents identified mixed-signal verification as a top customer challenge.
The performance of Spice simulation is prominent in the difficulties being reported. Analog Spice and Fast-Spice simulators are orders of magnitude slower than digital simulators and are slower still when compared with emulators and hardware accelerators. A June 2011 Design Automation Conference panel discussed the need for analog design and verification to become more like digital—that is, to become more structured and more top-down. Verification planning tools are required, and debug methodologies such as ABV (assertion-based verification), MDV (metric-driven verification), and UVM (universal verification methodology)-like self-checking test benches must be created for analog/mixed-signal.
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