Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mixed Signal Success Requires the Voice of Analog Designers

When seeking information about EDA or design execution there is an abundance of substance generated from the digital community. Digital designers and EDA types freely generate articles, papers, blogs and tweets on subjects that impact design execution. However, when the subject is analog design execution we tend to hear predominately from EDA. Hey analog designers, what do you need to be successful on your projects?

Maybe the analog community would be content submitting punch card decks for simulation runs and working with Mylar for layouts? I seriously doubt that. So what’s the deal with the voice of those that thrive in the world between a 1 and a 0? We must hear from them and involve them if we are ever to achieve a mixed signal verification strategy that even comes close to the results of a pure digital verification.

Analog content in the digital world is increasing. The barriers between the two camps must come down. There are digital tools and analog tools. There are analog designers and digital designers. We constantly focus on the differences between the two worlds, strengthening the grasp of the problem. If the spotlight remains on the dissimilarities how can we expect to converge on a solution to the ongoing, long standing barrier to mixed signal first silicon success?

Digital engineers believe 1st pass success is possible, even probable. Analog engineers believe 1st pass success is possible, although not probable. What’s missing in the analog design process that yields a belief in requiring silicon results to finalize a design? If I sit down and ask an analog engineer he will give me his or her gut feel reasons. Where is that industry wide specific list of reasons that outline why the existing tools will not provide the correct answers for analog and what are we doing about it?

If we are ever to solve the puzzle of mixed signal design and verification we had better be talking to the in the trenches analog designers and validating the reasons they believe 1st time success evades them. Waving a flag and banging a shoe on the table to say what’s wrong with the analog flow is not the nature of analog types. They definitely have something to say, we just need a different approach to learn from them. Analog designers – it wouldn’t hurt to take a course or two in advanced shoe banging to help get your message across about the holes in your design world.

Below are a few simple concepts to align our industry with a mixed signal success solution.

  • Analog & Mixed signal EDA vendors and support types – be sure you spend more time talking to analog designers than each other; they are the customers.
  • Digital designers – recognize that behavior differences will always exist between you and your non-binary counterparts and put that reality behind you. Digital is black and white; analog is gray.
  • Analog Designers – take off your shoe and start banging it on the table to be heard; say what you need. You must learn to improve collaboration, thus enabling flawless integration with your binary partners. Recognize that a smooth integration with digital is more than a purely technical task; it requires documentation, relationships and teamwork.
We must fully engage the analog design community in the solution of first time success for mixed signal design. It’s time for a change from a problem centric approach to a solution-based emphasis, from why we can’t to why can’t we. This is attainable only by dissolving the barriers between the two design worlds; it’s a people thing.

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