Design problems—especially those characteristic of large, high-performance designs—are most effectively addressed by first investigating the problem and then breaking the larger design issues into smaller, more manageable hurdles. Looking at the evolution of programmable devices in recent years, it is apparent that FPGAs have undergone tremendous growth in size and complexity, but the PLD EDA tool flow has remained relatively unchanged.

With a traditional flat design flow, each design change means re-synthesizing and reimplementing the entire design. With complex designs on multi-million-gate devices, even a minor change can lead to unacceptably long place and route (PAR) runtimes, which itself often leads to inconsistent results, not to mention the time lost from RTL to PAR iterations for a typical design.

Few design teams can tolerate unexpectedly low performance for a design that took longer than expected to complete, not to mention the associated frustration and stress. In addition, it may mean low utilization of the FPGA and even missed time-to-market opportunities.

Reprinted with permission from Xcell Journal / Fourth Quarter 2005. Article © Xcell Journal.