The PCB Is The System, for Taray

By Dean ~ January 29th, 2009. Filed under: Systems Engr..

Bruce Riggins, the Marketing and Applications Director at Taray, Inc. (now part of Cadence) has written a wonderful article for Programmable Logic Design Line(Of course, nobody can resist a story that starts out by recounting the plotline of a Star Trek episode!)  Bruce’s piece is informative and extremely well written.  Unlike many of the articles contributed to these publications, this one is absolutely a delight to read.  I highly recommend it.  The images are stunning!

Before optimization with Taray’s tool …:

image of FPGA-based design with crossovers as a result of failure to consider pin placement

FPGA-based design with crossovers as a result of failure to consider pin placement

… and after optimization with Taray’s 7Circuits product:

image of FPGA-based design  after optimizing connections

FPGA-based design after optimizing connections with 7Circuits

Taray seems to have done some very interesting work.  While others in the industry were arguing about the definition of ESL, Taray recognized that a PCB populated with multiple high pin count FPGAs is a system.  They identified a real problem, caused by an obvious organizational discontinuity in many electronics companies – PCB layout is not as tightly coupled with FPGA pin assignment as it needs to be.  They developed a product to address the problem, and they’ve built up a profitable business, with real customers, like Qualcomm.  Very impressive!

I’ll let this bit from Mr. Riggins’ summary speak for itself:

“Unfortunately, for the system designer, all that cramming is only making everything harder to swallow. While the internal complexity of the devices themselves has grown by orders of magnitude, the tools and techniques for designing those devices onto a PCB just haven’t kept up. It is more difficult to design-in a 1500 pin FPGA today than it was to design-in a 500 pin FPGA ten years ago. The reasons are simple and obvious: thanks to the EDA vendors’ inability (or unwillingness) to address the problem, engineers continue to be saddled with the same old tools, forced to either create their own solutions or resign themselves to doing it the old-fashioned way. Not a lot of options.

With the design community crying “uncle”, new tools are finally hitting the market – not from the major EDA vendors (although to be fair at least one of them has attempted to give it a good shot), but from smaller companies. One, from Taray, Inc., is 7Circuits, a product that uses synthesis technology to simultaneously attack the problem on both the FPGA and the PCB fronts.

As evidence of the soundness of this approach, Qualcomm was able to cut their design cycle in half – while more than doubling the number of FPGA’s and quintupling the number of boards in their system. And while the Qualcomm design is arguably at the upper end of the complexity scale, smaller designs can benefit, too.”

The company’s technology sounds great.  This is a compelling story and Mr. Riggins tells it extremely well.


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