Prevailing Winds in ESL
What do hurricanes and ESL have in common? They are both scheduled to frequent the East Coast during the first two weeks of September 2008. I left for a two-week ESL customer tour beginning September 1st, followed by a week in Cancun in the third week. Apparently, a series of hurricanes with friendly names like Gustav, Hannah, Ike and Josephine had similar travel plans. They all started their journey in Africa…I only had to travel from Portland, Oregon.
I’m early in my trip and I’m hoping to avoid any serious encounters with hurricanes of the weather variety, but it’s not hard to draw analogies to hurricanes and ESL adoption. For instance, there is a lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) swirling around both. With hurricanes, the questions are primarily “where is it going to land?” and “will I have a house to go back to??”
With regards to ESL, the fears are more nuanced. I met with a prominent consumer electronics company today to discuss their challenges in the front-end ASIC flow. We discussed advanced verification methodologies, reuse solutions, and requirements management, but you know what their number one concern was? Implementing an ESL solution that would allow them to analyze system level performance tradeoffs. Namely, latency, throughput, and bottlenecks. Sound familiar? If not, you might be in the minority. I would be hard pressed to find a customer today who isn’t trying to figure out how to address performance and power optimization at the system level.
ESL sounds like a good idea to most people, but lots of people are confused about what ESL is, what to do with it, where to start, what to avoid. In some ways, ESL shares some characteristics with a hurricane … it’s broad, it’s powerful, it’s not well understood….too bad hurricanes don’t have any redeeming qualities to compare. Nevertheless, several things are beginning to become clear. ESL is about abstraction to gain performance and productivity. With performance and productivity, design teams gain the advantage of exploring a broader solution space where they can ultimately produce highly optimized designs — a broader solution space that optimizes both software and hardware and optimized designs for optimal performance, optimal power, optimal area, and optimal time to tape out.
At Mentor Graphics, we view ESL as the next evolution in design methodology, not unlike what RTL design was to gate – level design. To that end, we are taking a holistic approach and investing accordingly. Specifically, we believe that an ESL solution requires three core components: Design, Synthesis and Verification — all at the level of TLM and above. The ultimate power in ESL comes through the combination of all three disciplines. If you want to learn more about what we are doing in this space, check us out at www.mentor.com/esl . I’m really grateful for this new System-Level Design newsletter and portal, and the opportunity to contribute to an ESL blog. It should serve as a good forum for idea exchange and education. Perhaps I can let you know how the hurricanes played out relative to travel plans in my next blog update. Until then, I wish you happy travels on the road to ESL and encourage your comments on the blog.
Mentor Graphics GM, ESL and HDL Design Division