Design: April 2008 Archives

John Busco at John's Semi-Blog has pointed to the launch by Nascentric of an analogue-circuit simulator accelerated by nVidia's graphics processors, and wondered: "Will general-purpose GPU computing become the acceleration platform for EDA?"

I was sitting at the Many-core and Reconfigurable Supercomputing (MRSC) conference in Belfast the other week wondering the same thing. In recent years, hardware-specific EDA has been a dirty word. Mentor Graphics, which made its name selling proprietary workstations before it became a software-only company made a foray back into hardware in a deal with Mercury Computer Systems in late 2006. Mercury used the IBM Cell processor – the same one used in the Sony Playstation 3 – to speed up the job of checking chip designs before they go to fab. Mercury sells the hardware and Mentor provides a special version of Calibre.

It's not clear how well hardware acceleration has gone for Mentor and Mercury. However, in its 2007 annual report, Mercury declared that it saw a "slight rebound" in its semiconductor business, partly due to the sale of one accelerator for chip-mask inspection – which is not related to Calibre – and its deal with Mentor. The number-three EDA company has been busy showing off the hardware at events like the SPIE lithography conference, so the company must have some faith in the idea of speciality accelerators.