Environment seeks to link EDA tools in one flow

Synopsys has built an environment that pulls together the many tools that make up a chip-design flow in an attempt to get customers up and running on new processes faster.

The Lynx environment is built around the company’s own design tools, which include IC Compiler and the Galaxy layout suite, but the EDA supplier has made it possible for customers to bring in software from other suppliers, such as Mentor Graphics’ Calibre, and have data pass between the tools automatically.

Glenn Dukes, vice president of professional services for Synopsys, said Lynx grew out of software written for the services group. “A pilot offering was launched three years ago in response to customer demand. We had developed a flow internally and customers wanted that for use in future engagements. We developed a pilot to be a more complete flow offering and delivered it as a service.”

The pilot offering has now been turned into a product to be sold separately from Synopsys’s services offering, although the services group is likely to be involved in a number of installations. In the form of the pilot and alpha and beta versions of Lynx, Synopsys has signed more than 20 licences. Dukes claimed more than a hundred tapeouts have been performed using the environment.

Dukes claimed a wide range of customers are interested in the environment but that most will introduce it as they move to more advanced processes – some customers are using the current version to design for 32nm.

“Most people adopt Lynx when they add a new technology node. If they have already been successful at a old technology they at least have a flow that is working for them reasonably well. They have a larger volume of technology data and having to look around and ask whether their flow is the right starting point. Even our largest customers do it project by project as they move to new technology nodes,” said Dukes.

He added: “You would expect this to be attractive to fabless companies. This sort of provides the integrated design solution that IDMs can afford to do themselves. Generally, fabless companies the ones who are the least invested in developing their own CAD systems.

“But even our largest customers have expressed an interest in Lynx. They have the opposite problem. They are heavily invested in flow development internally and not very differentiating for them.”

Dukes argued that if companies have picked Synopsys as their primary EDA suppliers, “they can concentrate on things that are more differentiated”.

To build inhouse or third-party tools into the Lynx flow, customers go through an interface that shows the structure of the flow graphically, with analysis tools branching off from the main implementation track. This allows extraction to be performed, for example, in parallel with design rules checks.

“To replace a tool such as DRC, you tell it to call Calibre instead of ICC and tell it to find the Calibre script. It is that easy. Most of our external customers have one or two third-party tools, so we know it works well. And Calibre is the most common,” said Dukes.

“We could hang the most common third-party tools as presets but we don’t have the licences or resources to pre-test those set-ups,” Dukes noted.

Although the backbone of the Synopsys flow is the MilkyWay database, Dukes said tools that use the SI2 OpenAccess database, originally written by Cadence Design Systems, will fit into the system. “Even our own Custom Designer product uses OpenAccess for the implementation database. We bring the frame views into MilkyWay for the final integration.”

As well as providing ready access to scripts used by tools as a design progresses through the flow, Synopsys has built a dashboard application and metrics collection and display system. “In the pilot version, we just did metrics capture. Having metrics without a solid reporting engine was like having the internet before Google. It needed further productisation,” Dukes explained.

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