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“See No Evil” Shouldn’t Apply To SoC Design

Some common maxims don’t apply when it comes to developing for increasingly expensive nodes.

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In the first part of this blog series, Talking Sense with Moortec…’Are you listening’, I looked at not waiting for hindsight to be wise after the event, instead make use of what’s available and act ahead of time.

There’s a Japanese maxim, depicting three ‘wise’ monkeys… Kikazaru, Mizaru, and Iwazaru, better known as ‘hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil’. If they were developing SoCs, you wouldn’t want them on your team. They aren’t going to listen to what the monitoring fabric is telling them, they wouldn’t be able to see deep inside their device to understand what was really happening during device bring up or mission mode and they certainly aren’t going to tell you what they haven’t done or if something is wrong.  You’ll be able to see that for yourself when your device comes back from the fab and its performance is below the spec’s requirements.

Sometimes turning a ‘blind eye’ can work out OK. Take a famous nobleman from the Elizabethan times in Britain. Allegedly playing a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe, (a few miles from Moortec’s Worldwide HQ), Sir Francis Drake, an English sea captain, privateer, slave trader, pirate, naval officer and explorer is alleged to have looked at the advancing Spanish Armada off the Plymouth coast and declared there was plenty of time to finish the game. The expression ‘turning a blind eye’ is originally attributed to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who used his injured blind eye when wishing to ignore instructions from his superiors in battle!

SoC development is a complex business. With shrinking geometries and escalating costs, trusting to luck is a dangerous strategy, especially when there are off-the-shelf solutions that will give you much greater visibility into your design.

So Mizaru isn’t a reliable engineer and Nelson and Drake did take the risk… yet there are a lot of casinos in Las Vegas who make a lot of money from those whose luck runs out. To quote Clint Eastwood in the film Dirty Harry, “You’ve got to ask the question: ‘do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”…with 5nm tape outs running to 10 figures, luck isn’t a viable commodity.



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