Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Towards quicker high level chip design

23.03.2004


Competitiveness in the chip design and fabrication sector depends on fast turn-arounds and ever shorter concept-to-product cycles. New hardware design tools based on object-oriented methods should help shorten the design cycle.



The design gap

The complexity of recently available products, such as new 3G mobile phones, camera and PDA combos, is staggering and requires a huge design effort. "There is no doubt that electronic systems of the future are going to be very complex," says Frank Oppenheimer of the OFFIS Research Institute, Oldenburg, and coordinator of the IST project ODETTE. "The complexity has been on the increase for a decade or so and we expect the trend to continue for the next 10-15 years."


Chip fabrication technology is improving all the time leading to ever smaller components. This means that chips can be designed to handle greater complexity or, for the same level of complexity, require smaller chip areas and lower power consumption. This opens up many new opportunities.

"The problem is that the design methodologies are, from a technical standpoint, at least ten years old," comments Oppenheimer. "There is a gap - we call it the design gap - between the methodologies and the technologies available. The tragedy is that these new opportunities cannot be fully exploited with current design methodologies.

"Suppose that, ten years ago, it took a year to design a system. Today, the requirement might be for a system with five times the complexity; using the same methodology, it would take five years to develop. No-one in industry would even consider such a long design cycle," adds Oppenheimer.

Handling complexity

"When chips were first designed, decades ago, it was carried out at the level of individual transistors and gates," says Oppenheimer. "Over the years, improvements in design methodology enabled designers to work at a much higher level, for example in terms of the registers and adders found within a microprocessor. This is the RT (Register Transfer) level. These are the basic building blocks within the micro-architecture of application-specific hardware devices (ASICs)."

"Nevertheless, despite this level of complexity, the designer would still be thinking at quite a low level, for instance in terms of basic integer arithmetic or wiring individual components together on the chip. ODETTE enables hardware designers to think in terms of much more abstract data types, perform complex operations with them and provide the means for high-level communication modelling," says Oppenheimer.

"We have tried to learn from the software domain, which is an area that is more advanced in the handling of complexity," observes Oppenheimer. "The object-oriented approach has a good track record, and concepts such as Classes and Inheritance are used in the ODETTE methodology. For example, whereas conventional chip design uses the concept of integer arithmetic, the ODETTE methodology would be quite at home working with TCP/IP packets. All the designer would have to do is to model the packet as a Class. We’ve significantly raised the level of abstraction of hardware designs and a spin-off will be to raise the level of productivity."

Putting theory into practice

There were two dimensions to the ODETTE project. One was to carry out research into the use of object-oriented methods as a means of generating hardware designs. The other was to develop a translator that takes an object-oriented hardware specification and translates it, using hardware synthesis, into something that can be inserted into an industrial design flow for real silicon.

Hardware synthesis based on object-oriented specifications called for the development of new synthesis techniques and tools. This lead to the definition of an extended SystemC/C++ synthesis subset, and a prototype synthesis tool capable of processing it. ODETTE presented a whole new design environment, and many other topics had to be addressed. First class libraries, for example, had to be created to support the hardware synthesis and verification techniques had to be developed, and these greatly benefited from the higher level of abstraction inherent in object-oriented methods.

"The fabrication process involves a number of steps," says Oppenheimer. "You make a software-like description of the hardware using a language such as VHDL or Verilog. You then use a synthesis tool, which employs a chain of tools to eventually produce something that can be processed on a silicon wafer. The ODETTE implementation can be thought of, in effect, as another element in the chain of tools, which sits on top of all the other tools. Only with tools such as ODETTE will tomorrow’s designers be able to create high-functionality chips with several hundred million transistors."

"The research work of ODETTE continues in related fields at OFFIS," says Oppenheimer. "As for the future, we hope the synthesis tool will become commercialised. Part of the methodology, in particular the Language Reference Manual and the simulation library of OSSS, can be downloaded free of charge."

Contact:
Frank Oppenheimer
Manager System Design Methodology Group
OFFIS - R&D Division Embedded Hardware-/Software-Systems
Escherweg 2
D- 26121 Oldenburg
Germany
Tel: +49-441-9722285
Fax: +49-441-9722282
Email: Frank.Oppenheimer@offis.de
Source: Based on information from ODETTE

Tara Morris | IST Results
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.lu/index.cfm?section=news&tpl=article&BrowsingType=Features&ID=63144

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano
20.10.2017 | Brown University

nachricht New software speeds origami structure designs
12.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>