That’s the question that everyone was asking last week when Oasys Design Systems came out of stealth mode with a “chip synthesis” tool they claim leaves Synopsys’ Design Compiler and other synthesis tools in the dust. According to Sanjiv Kaul, Chairman of Oasys and former VP of Synopsys’ Implementation Business Unit, RealTime Designer can synthesize full chips up to 100 million gates in a single run, and do so 20x faster with smaller memory requirements and achieving better quality of results. Oh, and it also produces a legalized cell placement that can be taken forward into detailed routing.
Well, I had 3 different reactions to these claims:
1. “Too good to be true!”
This was also the most common reaction I heard from fellow designers when I told them of the Oasys claims. It was my own reaction a month or so ago when I first spoke to Oasys about their technology. (To tell the truth, I was wondering what they were smoking.) Paul McLellan, as of last week a blogger for Oasys, indicated that disbelief was the most common reaction heard from people Oasys talks to about this product. Steve Meier, former VP of R&D for IC Compiler at Synopsys, said the same thing on Twitter and added some specific questions for Oasys to answer. Even one of the Oasoids (is it to early to coin that phrase) acknowledged to me privately that he was incredulous when he was first approached months ago to join the team. I guess he was convinced enough to join.
2. “I’ve seen this movie before, and I know how it ends.”
That was my second reaction. After all, there were Synopsys killers before. Ambit (out of which, by the way, came most of the developers of the Oasys tool) was the first big threat. They had a better QOR (quality of results) by many accounts, but Synopsys responded quickly to stave them off. Then came Get2Chip. Similar story. Cadence’s RTL Compiler, which combines technology from both Ambit and Get2Chip, is well regarded by many but still it has a very small market share. Bottom line, nobody ever got fired for choosing Design Compiler, so it’s hard to imagine a mass migration. Still, if the Oasys claims are true, they’d have a much more compelling advantage than Ambit or Get2Chip ever had.
3. “Synthesis? Who cares about synthesis?”
That’s my third reaction. Verification is the #1 problem for ASIC design teams. DFM is a critical issue. ESL and C-synthesis are starting to take off. RTL synthesis addresses none of these big problems or opportunities. It’s a solved problem. Indeed, many design flows just do a “quick and dirty” synthesis in order to get a netlist in to place and route where real timing can be seen and a good placement performed. I hear very few people complaining about synthesis, so I wonder who is going to spend money in a tight economy on something that just “ain’t broken”. True, synthesis may be a bottleneck for 100M gate ASICs, but how many companies are doing those and can those companies alone support Oasys. If you talk to Oasys, however, they feel that the availability of such fast synthesis will change the way people design, creating a “new platform”. I’m not sure I see that, but perhaps they are smarter than me.
OK, so that’s my first 3 thoughts regarding Oasys design. I’ll be getting a better look at them at DAC and will share what I learn in some upcoming blog posts. Please feel free to share your thoughts here as well. Between us, we can hopefully decide if this Oasys is real or a mirage.
harry the ASIC guy