Get Agile

Why a methodology for developing software is now required in hardware.


History repeats itself, but frequently not in the exactly the same place. The problems faced by system engineering teams today—rising complexity, shorter market windows and more issues involving interactions that affect everything from dynamic power and leakage current to electromigration and finFET design—mirror the kinds of top-down issues that software developers began encountering more than two decades ago.

The first inkling that something had to be done to improve the methodology for developing software code began cropping up in the 1990s, when development bogged down to the point where it was painfully slow, document-heavy, and increasingly unsuccessful.

A quarter century later, hardware complexity has run a similar course. It’s plodding, complicated, and heavily bogged down by restrictive rules. And as more functionality continues to be added onto chip, those problems only get worse. Add to that multi-patterning,

One of the points made by Agile method proponents was that designing and constructing software cannot be reliably defined in advance.

Jump tracks to the world of finFETs, stacked die, and development even for established processes ranging from 40nm to 28nm low power and FD-SOI, and the problems look strangely familiar. A group of leading software developers created a manifesto in 2001 for improving software development, citing 12 principles of Agile Software.

The question, now, is what the hardware industry can learn from these interactions and how they apply to semiconductor and system-level development. It’s clear that the old waterfall method has to change.

Come hear more about how this approach relates to Shift Left, and from designers who have used Agile methods in their production projects. A forum will be held at DAC, with Neil Johnson of Xtreme EDA, Andrew Putnam of Microsoft Research, Davis Frank of Pivotal Software, and myself.

In addition, there are two LinkedIn groups that have been created to address this subject, with more than 800 members. Momentum is building – and change will come.

For more information on what Sonics is up to at DAC, click here.