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Integrated System Design

Mike Jensen

Mike Jensen

Posted May 16, 2011
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All EDA companies share a common business objective: convincing customers to buy their tools over the competition. Among other marketing tasks, we search for graphics that best express the value of our tools, graphics that customers can look at and immediately understand. Having worked on many charts and graphs myself over the years, I’ll admit it’s not an easy job to find or develop just the right illustration. But every once-in-awhile I stumble across an image that makes simple and elegant sense.

System level simulation tools, of which SystemVision is a prime example, help design teams leverage modeling and analysis methods to improve system quality and performance. But how do development tools help designers realize these benefits? The explanation starts with the figures below. 

system_design_a_resized1

This first image illustrates a traditional high-level system development flow where system integration is verified and fine-tuned using system prototypes and bench testing. The vertical axis represents relative effort required for a particular design task; the horizontal axis represents progressing time in the development process. System development tasks are grouped into three broad categories: Definition; Integration & Test; Reliability, Warranty & Rework. The point of the graphic is to illustrate the relative effort and cost associated with fixing system problems. Fixing a problem in the Definition phase is the least expensive. If a problem isn’t detected until the Integration & Test phase, costs to fix it are an order of magnitude higher than in the Definition phase. And if a problem isn’t found until the Reliability, Warranty & Rework phase, repair costs increase two orders of magnitude above fixing the problem at the Definition phase. Design teams using this development flow may use simulation and analysis tools for some development tasks, but hardware prototyping and test are the core of their performance verification process.

system_design_b_resized

Contrast the hardware prototype-centric flow with the more simulation-and-analysis-centric flow illustrated in this second graphic, which shows the relative benefits of using system level analysis tools from early in the development process. In this flow, much of the effort (vertical scale) is shifted to the Definition phase where costs associated with finding and fixing problems are the lowest. Design teams use simulation and analysis to verify and fine tune the system definition before proceeding to detailed development. Virtual prototypes, developed using software models rather than hardware components, and analyzed using simulation rather than testbench instrumentation, are the means for analyzing and troubleshooting system integration and peformance issues. Finding problems at the Definition phase significantly reduces Integration & Test phase costs which, in turn, dramatically reduce Reliability, Warranty & Rework phase costs.

While these two diagrams are meant only to illustrate general “Effort & Cost versus Time” system development and performance verification concepts, the interpretation is clear: the earlier design teams can find system problems, the cheaper the problems are to fix. Adopting the right development methodology is key, starting with selecting design tools that can be used througout more phases of the development flow.

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About Mike Jensen

Mike JensenMost career paths rooted in high technology take many interesting (and often rewarding) twists and turns. Mine has certainly done just that. After graduating in electrical engineering from the University of Utah (go Utes!), I set off to explore the exciting, multi-faceted high tech industry. My career path since has wound its way from aircraft systems engineering for the United States Air Force, to over two decades in applications engineering and technical marketing for leading design automation software companies, working exclusively with mechatronic system modeling and analysis tools. Along the way, I’ve worked with customers in a broad range of industries and technologies including transportation, communications, automotive, aerospace, semiconductor, computers, and consumer electronics; all-in-all a very interesting, rewarding, and challenging ride. In my current gig, I work on technical marketing projects for Mentor Graphics' SystemVision product line. And in my spare time I dream up gadgets and gizmos, some even big enough to qualify as systems, that I hope someday to build -- providing I can find yet a little more of that increasingly elusive spare time. Visit Mike Jensen's Blog

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