The Tide Is Turning

The tenor of discussions around ESL is changing; widespread adoption has begun.


By Jon McDonald
I was at DAC last week. Over the course of the week I had a chance to talk with a significant number of customers and others in the industry. As has been the case the past few years there was good interest in system-level design. But from my perspective the tone of the discussions experienced a major shift this year.

In the past, much of the discussion was around “why—why should I look at the ESL tools and, if I do want to look, what do I need to look at?” This year over the three days of full meetings I don’t think I spent any time talking about “why” adding ESL capabilities makes sense. People were much more interested in detailed discussions about how to add ESL to their flow in the most efficient ways. I didn’t get any pushback on the need to make the change.

It was refreshing to move beyond some of the theoretical discussions around value and justification to more practical matters of deployment and integration with existing flows or point capabilities. I believe this transition is another sign that the ESL market really is maturing and being accepted as a valuable and desirable addition to the electronic design flow.

An interesting aspect of this transition was highlighted for me by one of my discussions with one of our customers. This customer was in the process of expanding their usage from a relatively small number of initial users who had been using the tools on production projects, but in more of a pilot project mindset, to a wider deployment as a standard part of the design flow for all projects. In the initial projects the focus was on the basic capabilities: Was it possible to achieve the modeling accuracy, extract the analysis metrics and realize the simulation performance at the transaction level that would enable them to make the needed design decisions before the implementation was frozen? In this mode the value of the feedback and the impact of the choices on a projects viability meant that they were willing to work outside their standard flow. In fact, they wanted to and did work closely with us to drive product direction.

In the new mode the focus is shifting to integration with the rest of their design flow. Consistency and repeatability have increasing importance, as they expect a broader design community to begin to benefit from the ESL capabilities.

A challenge we have as an industry is to satisfy the needs of the mainstream users while continuing to enhance and innovate the capabilities we deliver in our ESL tools. As users it is important to understand your position for deployment of these tools. During initial deployment, exploration of the capabilities and applying these capabilities outside the standard flow will be critical to success.

From my perspective I’m very excited about the changes and challenges as we move into this phase of expanding deployment. I believe the possibilities and investment in ESL tools and methodologies will expand dramatically this year. The more we can facilitate the early adopters in our customers and deliver mainstream capabilities to the broader engineering communities the more resource will be available to extend the boundaries of our ESL design and analysis capabilities.

–Jon McDonald is a technical marketing engineer for the design and creation business unit at Mentor Graphics.