ACEplorer Giving System Architects the Power of Fast and Efficient Handling of Power and Thermal Issue at Higher Level

DOCEA Power, an electronic system level (ESL) company that delivers power and thermal analysis software for the electronics design applications, today announced ACEplorer®, the first ESL software tool that allows designers to model, simulate and optimize the dynamic power and thermal behaviour of whole complex systems, either on-chip, on-board or with multiple boards. ACEplorer (ACE as Abstract Concept of Energy) is used by system and specification engineers as well as software and hardware developers for mobile applications, telecommunications, gaming, automotive, consumer, medical and military systems.

Whatever the design (IP, SoC, board, subsystem or system), designers are facing the challenge of power. "Battery autonomy is no longer the only driver for power management. Packaging and cooling cost and power consumption are now key to competitive success and for addressing environmental policies," noted Ghislain Kaiser, CEO and co-founder of DOCEA Power. "Moreover the situation is getting worse with the next nano scale technology nodes where the increase of power and temperature coupling due to leakage current threatens IC reliability and thermal runaway risk."

Power and thermal effects in a SoC come from digital blocks, memories and analog blocks, and depend on power reduction techniques, how the application software runs, and technology data. At this level of complexity, the only way architects can understand their design is to adopt a higher level of abstraction than RTL (register-transfer-level). "Thanks to early decisions and predictions in the design flow, power saving can reach 70-90% at the Electronic System Level versus 10-25% later at layout," added Ghislain Kaiser.

Double modelling of power and dynamic thermal behaviour

The DOCEA Solution is an entire methodology for power and thermal analysis and is based on the ACEplorer platform. Release 1.1 of ACEplorer allows architects to generate power models and create a system model. The ACE power model is a common XML-based description for capturing power behaviour from informal requirements, even if the sources are heterogeneous (spreadsheet, datasheet, specification, IP-XACT description, and library). The ACE power model can mix components at different levels of accuracy (corresponding to different versions of one model) and models the interdependencies between parameters for providing more accurate/reliable figures. As with any XML files, ACE models can be stored in a database.

ACEplorer automatically generates power intents according to the IEEE 1801 or UPF (Unified Power Format) description. So users can secure power specification and manage power intents at any stage of the design flow. Thermal modelling in ACEplorer technology is based on a Dynamic Thermal Compact Model (DCTM) generated by proprietary mathematical algorithms. Package and environment thermal behaviour are represented by a network of thermal resistors and capacitances. The user can build their own thermal model (in a Spice format) or run a dedicated tool which is currently provided as a DOCEA Power service.

A holistic approach based on the "separation of concerns" principle

Once all the models are generated, users can build an entire system model and execute the power and/or thermal architecture exploration. ACEplorer includes a proprietary fast electro-thermal dynamic simulator enabling power and temperature computing into a single tool. This simulator takes into account static and dynamic IR-drop, DVFS (dynamic voltage-frequency scaling), power/temperature coupling. Another advantage of the ACEplorer platform is the separation between an architectural structural description and application use cases. This improves the reuse of power and thermal models. "Thanks to these unique features our solution can improve reliability 20% for power and temperature results and reduce design margins," noted Ghislain Kaiser.

ACEplorer is distinguished by its computing performances. The DCTM approach allows designers to execute a thermal simulation in only 0.1s while controlling accuracy compared to 4h with a finite-element method (FEM) based thermal simulation. Like the ACE power model simulation, results are available in XML, a suitable format for sustainability, data management and exchanging through an Intranet or Internet.

Based on the "separation of concerns" concept ACE models can be seamlessly shared and reused among development teams and projects, since they are not mixed with functional code. This minimizes a company's global effort and improves teamwork efficiency. ACEplorer extracts power information needed for refining models from commercial EDA tools thus improving reliability of results. Designers can also collect the silicon measurements from silicon. By putting all the power refined models in one database customers capitalize on their know-how and manage their power data without modifying their design flow. "Our solution helps customers turn power management into a key competitive advantage. It's why ACEplorer has already been adopted by the world's largest semiconductor companies," added Ghislain Kaiser.

ACEplorer® 1.1 is now available in a time-based licensing and for node lock, floating and multi-site licenses. ACEplorer ®1.1 is running on Microsoft Windows and Linux systems.

DOCEA Power's software will be previewed at the Design, Automation & Test in Europe conference in Nice, France, from April 20 to 24, 2009.

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