Week In Review: Design, Low Power


Xilinx debuted the Virtex UltraScale+ VU19P, which the company says is now the world's largest FPGA at 1.6X the size of its predecessor. The VU19P features 35 billion transistors, 9 million system logic cells, up to 1.5 terabits per-second of DDR4 memory bandwidth and up to 4.5 terabits per-second of transceiver bandwidth, and over 2,000 user I/Os. With a set of debug, visibility tools, and IP,... » read more

Synthesizing Hardware From Software


The ability to automatically generate optimized hardware from software was one of the primary tenets of system-level design automation that was never fully achieved. The question now is whether that will ever happen, and whether it is just a matter of having the right technology or motivation to make it possible. While high-level synthesis (HLS) did come out of this work and has proven to be... » read more

What Is A Custom Processor?


Spurred by the latest cyclical development boom, the semiconductor industry is entering a new golden era of custom processors, but this time ‘custom processor’ means something different. A generation ago, every major semiconductor company had in-house processors: SuperH, PowerPC, V800, Alpha, MEP, Trimedia, etc., with some specializing more than others for particular domains. But industr... » read more

Chiplets, Faster Interconnects, More Efficiency


Big chipmakers are turning to architectural improvements such as chiplets, faster throughput both on-chip and off-chip, and concentrating more work per operation or cycle, in order to ramp up processing speeds and efficiency. Taken as a whole, this represents a significant shift in direction for the major chip companies. All of them are wrestling with massive increases in processing demands ... » read more

Hardware-Software Co-Design Reappears


The core concepts in hardware-software co-design are getting another look, nearly two decades after this approach was first introduced and failed to catch on. What's different this time around is the growing complexity and an emphasis on architectural improvements, as well as device scaling, particularly for AI/ML applications. Software is a critical component, and the more tightly integrate... » read more

Open Source Processors: Fact Or Fiction?


Open source processors are rapidly gaining mindshare, fueled in part by early successes of RISC-V, but that interest frequently is accompanied by misinformation based on wishful thinking and a lack of understanding about what exactly open source entails. Nearly every recent conference has some mention of RISC-V in particular, and open source processors in general, whether that includes keyno... » read more

Why IP Quality Is So Difficult To Determine


Differentiating good IP from mediocre or bad IP is getting more difficult, in part because it depends up on how and where it is used and in part because even the best IP may work better in one system than another—even in chips developed by the same vendor. This has been one of the challenges with IP over the years. In many cases, IP is poorly characterized, regardless of whether that IP wa... » read more

Extending RISC-V ISA With Custom Instruction Set Extension


RISC-V ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) is designed in a modular way. It means that the ISA has several groups of instructions (ISA extensions) that can be enabled or disabled as needed. This allows implementing precisely the instruction groups that the application needs, without having to pay for area or power that will not be used. One of the groups is special; it has no predefined instruct... » read more

Chiplet Momentum Builds, Despite Tradeoffs


Chip design is a series of tradeoffs. Some are technical, others are related to cost, competitive features or legal restrictions. But with the nascent 'chiplet' market, many of the established balance points are significantly altered, depending on market segments and ecosystem readiness. Chiplets provide an alternative mechanism for integrating intellectual property (IP) blocks into a semico... » read more

IP Requires System Context At 6/5/3nm


Driven by each successive generation of semiconductor manufacturing technology, complexity has reached dizzying levels. Every part of the design, verification and manufacturing is more complicated and intense the more transistors are able to be packed onto a die. For these reasons, the entire system must be taken into consideration as a whole – not just as individual building blocks as could ... » read more

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