When asked about the value that the Calibre platform brings to the design community, most folks will respond with performance, foundry support, and ease of debugging. While these are all valuable aspects and traits of Calibre, there is one more benefit that is often taken for granted: support.
The word “support” is something bandied around loosely in EDA. Saying you have good support is akin to saying you have high “quality.” It’s an intangible that is difficult to get your hands on. But, if we can’t define support, we can’t possibly quantify it. Similarly, if you can’t quantify it, you can’t realistically compare one vendor’s support versus another’s.
So, from a Mentor Graphics and Calibre point of view, what does support mean, and how does it differ from quality? The simplest definition for support is probably a measure of the risk level the tool imparts on a business. Let’s face it, physical verification is a critical component in the electronic design cycle. It is among the very last tasks performed before tape-out. Its function is to ensure that the layout, which will dictate the mask (and ultimately the silicon of the design), can be manufactured and will implement the functionality as designed. This is critical. As Jon Kuppinger of LSI once commented to me, “If our place and route tools, or our layout tools, or our netlisters have bugs, it’s painful, but I can at least manage it, because I know Calibre will identify those errors before tape-out. But, if Calibre has a bug, there is no safety net.” Clearly, the risk associated with physical verification, then is quite high. Minimizing that risk is the role of support.
Quality, on the other hand, is a measure of the usefulness of a product for a given task. This includes a measure of the risk associated with a product in its current state. To be useful towards a task, it must contain all the functionality required to perform the task; it must be relatively easy to implement into an organization and flow, and it must also be dependable, meaning it is unlikely to have disastrous bugs, and that it provides alternative paths to success should a problem be found.
That said, for software products, and in particular for EDA products, which must constantly evolve to meet the ever-changing challenges of new technologies, it should be clear that one cannot achieve high quality without first having very strong support. The support ultimately drives the shape of the product as it continues to evolve and grow.
In the case of physical verification, the challenge for software providers is to do all that is possible to reduce tape-out time while ensuring acceptable results. To that end, there are several approaches that can be employed as part of a comprehensive support model:
* Implement a high-coverage testing approach to identify and correct bugs before a software version is released
* Provide an efficient communication vehicle for users to pass details back when faced with problems or challenges
* Activate a well-trained set of experts with an infrastructure that enables them to respond to those identified issues in a timely manner
* Establish a strong roadmap targeting expected future requirements, including advanced verification needs, as well as new processing requirements
* Employ and maintain an effective mechanism for delivering new code for fixes to problems and for new functionality enhancements
Each of these items represents goals at which Mentor Graphics and the Calibre product line strive to excel. In my coming blogs, I will take a closer look at each of these goals, and the specific actions taken for each to achieve superiority.