Mentor, Cadence Join Forces

Goal is to create a single API that runs across simulation and emulation platforms for debug.

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Mentor Graphics and Cadence have agreed to create a single binary interface for their respective simulation and emulation platforms, allowing debug tools from one vendor to run on the other’s platforms.

The two have invited Synopsys to join their initiative, as well. So far, there is no decision.

The move proposes a single API for both Cadence and Mentor Graphics Emulation platforms, which would allow either vendor’s tools to work on the other’s execution engines. This is being pitched by both Mentor and Cadence as a much-needed interface for complex designs, following in the same vein as the Universal Verification Methodology (UVM), which incorporated Synopsys’ Verification Methodology Manual (VMM) and the Open Verification Methodology (OVM) supported by Cadence and Mentor.

Still, building comprehensive and complex standards that include all of the Big Three EDA vendors has a spotty history. The development of independent power formats created a furor in the engineering community because chipmakers bought tools from more than one vendor—sometimes inheriting them through acquisitions, and sometimes buying IP that supported one or the other—and had to build their own bridges between them. That gap has only been fused with the latest couple of releases of the IEEE 1801.

The goal this time is to start earlier in the process, where all three have hardware and software verification engines. The proposal is expected to be taken up by an Accellera working group sometime in the few months.

“The idea is to decouple the engine of the data producers from the data consumer,” said Adam Sherer, verification product management director at Cadence. “This is where VCD started 20 years ago. Out of the engine we got a body of simulation data that allowed consumers to do more. But we have since broken that. Designs are so big, and there are so many changes in data needs, that we have to build proprietary databases. With this API you would be able to read output data once. The goal here is to create a common way to read all data so that we can all innovate on debug.”

Dennis Brophy, director of strategic business development at Mentor, noted that the API does not require any vendor to provide trade secrets. “What it does is allow us to build compact databases and connect them through a binary scheme,” he said.

One thing the API does do is simplify comparisons between each vendor’s competing platform, though, because the same databases and tools would be able to work on any platform. Both Brophy and Sherer say this is already possible, but this would certainly make it easier to run direct comparisons in all areas, ranging from power analysis to functional verification to debug.

“Mentor’s hope is that none of us play games here,” Brophy added, noting this is in customers’ best interest because they use tools from more than one vendor.