Analog Bits Case Study
How does an IC Designer fit complex, mixed-signal IP into an ever smaller package?
The landscape never stops changing for the engineers at Analog Bits. Their customers are running to keep ahead of the miniaturization and cost curves, and they rely on Analog Bits for custom IP that delivers high differentiation, performance and low power in a small footprint.
Power-Optimized High Performance
Analog Bits designs fully customized, transistor-level IP components for integration into digital chips that its customers design on CMOS logic processes. Its products include precision clocking IP macros such as PLLs and DLLs, programmable interconnect solutions such as SERDES and I/Os, and specialized memories such as high-speed SRAMs and T-CAMs.
The ICs end up in applications that call for big improvements in power and performance from one generation to the next: computer graphics boards, gaming consoles, cameras, cell phones, video hardware and the search technology used in high-end routers and switches. These designs are in hundreds of millions of shipped units, in geometry ranging from 0.35µm to 40nm.
Beyond Pure Analog Design
"These are not big designs with millions of gates, but they are very complex, mission-critical, mixed-signal designs," explains Mahesh Tirupattur, executive vice president of Analog Bits. "Our customers need these analog functions to drive and interface their digital logic, so our mixed-signal designs require reliable EDA tools."
Knowing that its customers will soon want even higher performance in an even smaller footprint, Mahesh says that the company has already embarked on 32nm designs, and that it plans to continue with Tanner tools in order to re-use the existing 40nm design blocks.
"We've found over the years that the Tanner tools evolve and keep pace with our needs. We are able to achieve our product roadmap of high-speed clocking, interconnects and memories."
Executive Vice President
Analog Bits, Inc
Analog Bits engineering team has grown and scaled efficiently using Tanner tools.
"From the perspective of a focused company looking purely at productivity and engineering resources," continues Mahesh, "I don't need to have a CAD expert on staff if I have Tanner tools. I know we can get all the functionality needed to get the job done efficiently and cost-effectively.
"Strictly from the point of view of logistics and CAD, and for our design needs, Tanner tools are plug-and-play software on par with industry-leading layout tools. Tanner has done a great job of introducing new features and supporting our users for a long time."
Tools that Fit the Organization
Analog Bits has been careful to choose tools according to their fit with the company.
- Production — Their production process requires portability of design blocks from one manufacturing process to another, so they've standardized on layout porting techniques facilitated by Tanner tools.
- Verification — They have their own rigorous procedure for verifying layout, including DRC/LVS checks and quality metrics coded to Tanner tools that go beyond even the most expensive EDA suites.
- Training — Thanks to the training Analog Bits offers its engineers and the low learning curve of Tanner tools, the company begins to realize a return on investment in new talent within a few weeks.
- Productivity — In contrast to high-end, server-based tool suites, Tanner tools are PC-based and modular. Inside the building, the advantage lies in the ease of moving among workstations and leveraging new hardware. Outside the building, whether for telecommuting or on-site work with a customer, it's much easier to work remotely on projects with Tanner tools.
Finally, they also realize and appreciate the fact that the company doesn't need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a line of EDA products.
Analog Bits has gotten the most out of Tanner Tools in creating designs for FPGAs, as well as DDR macros and high-speed TCAM (Ternary Content Address Memory) used in network search engines, monitors and PC graphics cards. They also use the tools in low-power designs for devices like hearing aids and wireless headsets for mobile phones.
"We have plenty of technical reasons for staying with Tanner for all these years," concludes Mahesh, "and it also helps to do business with a company that's similar to ours in scale and focus. There has been a lot of consolidation among EDA tool vendors and Tanner manages to stay above the acquisition fray, which is reassuring to us."