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Synopsys And Embedded Vision: A Multi-Faceted Product Line

If you've looked closely at the Embedded Vision Alliance member page beginning earlier today, you might have noticed two new entries; Synopsys and VanGogh Imaging. Welcome to both companies! Jeff Bier, Jeremy Giddings and I had the opportunity to meet with several Synopsys representatives a few days ago to better understand the company's technology and product alignment with respect to embedded vision, which I'll cover in this particular news piece. I'll discuss VanGogh Imaging in a separate writeup to come later this week, after Jeff, Jeremy and I have a chance to meet with company representatives.

Markus Willems, Synopsys' Senior Product Marketing Manager of System-Level Solutions, will be the company's primary Embedded Vision Alliance representative. To some of you, Synopsys may be predominantly known as an EDA (electronic design automation) toolset provider, reflective of the company's core technology heritage. Nowadays, Synopsys' product line has significantly diversified beyond that foundation (which in and of itself has expanded to encompass new process lithography characteristics, SoC integration requirements, high-level design methodologies, and the like).

Synopsys offers a plethora of design services, for example, along with an extensive suite of IP cores obtained both via internal development and acquisition. In recent times, the company acquired the Analog Business Group of MIPS (in 2010), followed by Virage Logic one year later, in the process obtaining (among other things) the ARC microprocessor core product line which Virage Logic had purchased in 2009. When we asked Markus which elements of Synopsys' product line were particularly aligned with embedded vision, he immediately responded with the following top-four list:

  • The company's multi-year collaboration with ARM to jointly develop comprehensive solutions for the development of ARM-based SoC designs
  • The ARC processor core product line mentioned earlier
  • High-level design synthesis tools, and
  • FPGA-based ASIC prototyping capabilities

Below you'll find an elaboration of each items listed above, in Markus' own words (with minor grammatical editing by myself):

Processor Designer: ASIP design

This product will be the anchor of our Alliance activities. The tool allows for designing your own application-tailored processor architecture, generating RTL, a simulator, assembler, linker, and compiler from a single description. Customer can rapidly explore architectural alternatives, profile real algorithms, and make tradeoff decisions. Embedded vision is all about balancing power, performance, and programmability, and therefore we see a significant interest in application-specific processors in this domain.

Virtualizer, HAPS: Prototyping

Synopsys' offering consists of virtual prototypes (featuring Virtualizer), FPGA prototypes (featuring HAPS), and Hybrid Prototyping (featuring the combination of Virtualizer and HAPS, plus dedicated transactors to combine both products). As embedded vision is about the combination of hardware and software, and since judging the quality of a system requires dealing with images that you need to inspect, prototyping is a key element of the design flow.

ARC Processor Cores

Optimized for embedded applications, ARC cores are widely deployed RISC controllers shipped in billions of devices. 

Synphony C-compiler: C-based synthesis

As algorithms are provided in C, there is a strong interest to rapidly explore hardware design alternatives using a C-based synthesis. Image processing has always been a hot area for C-based synthesis, due to the importance of the data path.

Once again, welcome to the Embedded Vision Alliance, Synopsys!