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Synopsys Orion Analog Mixed Signal Design 2008.09 AMD64

This morning Synopsys publicly announced the long-rumored–and demonstrated in the private rooms at DAC–Orion project: a custom and cell-based analog-mixed-signal (AMS) design environment aimed at breaking the dominance of Cadence\’s Virtuoso platform. By targeting what they see as changes in the requirements placed on AMS designers since the architecting of Virtuoso–while replicating much of the look and feel of that market-leading platform–Synopsys apparently hopes to position Orion, now formally known as Custom Designer, as the next-generation mainstream AMS design environment.

And these requirements changes have been profound. The most mundane, but the most disabling change in the AMS landscape has been simply the enormous growth in the size of designs. This has made capacity, and especially simulation capacity, a critical issue. Design teams are having to partition—or worse, simplify—their designs just to get simulations to run to completion. It is time that designers be able to design what they need, not just what the flow will allow, commented Bijan Kiani, Synopsys vice president of marketing.

Nearly as important as individual tool capacity is interoperability, according to director of marketing Graham Etchells. In a world where no one tool can yet deal effectively with both the analog and digital portions of a design, it is vital to hold all the design data in a common database and to move gracefully between tools, each tool providing its own view of the design.

That pretty much outlines the Synopsys approach. There are no major new tool announcements in Custom Designer—instead, incremental improvements, significant enhancements to data entry, and an integration onto an open platform. There are new elements: an intelligent schematic editor and a layout editor. And there are very familiar pieces: Design Compiler, IC Compiler, PrimeTime, Hercules/Star-RCXT, and a phalanx of analog simulators, including HSPICE, HSIM XA, NanoSim XA, and the WaveView analysis tool from the SandWorks acquisition. The latter is particularly important because of the large increase in capacity it brings to the show. The entire suite sits on an OpenAccess foundation, and employs P-cells defined in TCL or Python, not Skill. Synopsys has also reached out to the Open-PDK movement, incorporating support for Interoperable PDK libraries.

Much of the novelty here is in the editors. The new schematic editor allows on-screen editing not only of connectivity, but of parametric values. If you want a different resistance or capacitance, you can click on the value in the schematic editor and change it right there, without having to enter data in a pop-up table. Simple and cute, but saving a few clicks per operation adds up quickly on large designs, Etchells maintained. Similarly, the layout editor reflects real-time changes to P-cell parameters. And because everything is linked to the OpenAccess database, all the tools should reflect the results of extraction runs automatically.

This also means, Kiani emphasized, that designers are using the same models and extracted data all the way through the design, from initial circuit analysis through implementation and sign-off. That in itself has the potential to save catastrophic iterations.

If there is a bottom line to the announcement, it is that there still are no silver bullets to AMS design. It is hard work, requiring the cooperation of several different teams—digital front-end designers, analog circuit designers, and the physical design team. And as we move from the 130 nm paradigm of optimized analog circuits sitting next to digital circuits, into the realm of digitally-optimized and controlled analog, anything that can ease this cooperation becomes not a convenience, but a vital step forward

product:Synopsys Orion Analog Mixed Signal Design 2008.09 AMD64