Putting the “Automation” back into EDA

The Pythonic Tonic: Miracle cure or Snake-oil?

Chris Higgs, Lead Developer, Potential Ventures
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There are plenty of buzzwords floating around in EDA right now - wherever you go people are talking about agile, portable stimulus or "shift-left". We attend conferences and listen to representatives from the best companies in the world who tell us how to do things faster and more efficiently. They say we need new tools, new development methodologies, new testing frameworks, new languages and new libraries. And they're right! It's a logical proposition that in order to improve our efficiency something, perhaps many things, must change.


Being an inquisitive engineer, it's great to hear about the latest and greatest trends and technologies. But sometimes when we get back to the familiarity of our desks and face an historical code-base and real-world pressures the doubts start to set in. It's difficult and risky to effect change. Any deviation from the status quo will inevitably incur a productivity cost before the gains become evident. There's rarely a convenient moment to take a productivity hit.


Besides, how can we be sure that these new fashions will bring any improvement? It might have worked for that other company who presented their convincing paper, but then they might have been really inefficient to begin with! Perhaps our current way of doing things isn't too bad. For engineers, who are drawn inescapably towards the practicalities rather than the sales pitch, how do we objectively evaluate the productivity delta we might experience if we adopt whatever is promoted in the latest set of PowerPoint slides? Perhaps we all have different ideas of what "good" looks like.


And therein lies the problem.


What does good look like?


Although we may have a natural intuition, "good" isn't something we can easily measure. There's no SI unit for engineering effectiveness that presenters can quote. Maybe some crude dimensional analysis is called for. How much can we achieve in a month? Or a week? Or a single day? Or an afternoon? Or an hour?


At Potential Ventures, we've been working hard to combine the best commercial and open-source tools into a comprehensive development flow. We've adopted best-practice from software development, learned the lessons from many EDA projects, tweaked and refined and improved over years.


What does it look like when all this comes together to form a supporting environment for development? Our streamlined design flow encompasses all aspects of EDA; RTL, verification, co-simulation of hardware and software, interactive debug tools, documentation, metric tracking and more.


Book a slot at the Aldec booth so we can share with you our vision of what "good" could look like. Flying in the face of all received wisdom and traditional sales techniques, we'll be eschewing the PowerPoint slides and doing real development, from scratch... live! We’re hoping to demonstrate how just much is possible in only half an hour. What could possibly go wrong?!


We're proud of what we've achieved and excited to share our flow with you. Be sure to visit https://www.aldec.com/dac2015 to book your slot now.

Chris has over a decade of experience with FPGAs and has worked in a variety of sectors, from defense to telecommunications to financial services, from small start-ups to multinational corporations.  His participation in large software projects has helped shape his views on RTL design and verification.  As an early adopter of continuous integration and test-driven development, Chris has assisted organisations who wish to improve efficiency to adopt current best-practices as part of their FPGA development process.


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