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Cell BE platform accelerates optical proximity correction

Posted: 05 Dec 2006     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Mentor Graphics  Mercury Computer Systems  EDA tools  EDA tool  OPC tool 

Mentor Graphics Corp. and Mercury Computer Systems are bringing out what they say is the first Cell Broadband Engine (BE) based acceleration platform for the EDA market.

Mentor Graphics announced last week the availability of Calibre nmOPC, a next-generation optical proximity correction (OPC) tool aimed at foundries and mask shops. While it has a number of software improvements aimed at 45nm ICs, the star attraction is the "coprocessor acceleration" available from Mercury Computer's Dual Cell-Based Blade, which is just now going into production use.

Mercury Computer is a provider of computing systems and software for data-intensive applications, including image processing, signal processing, and visualisation. In 2005, Mercury and IBM announced an alliance focused on the joint development, engineering and commercialisation of Cell BE processor-based products. Mercury followed up with the release of the Dual Cell-based Blade last year.

The Blade serves a number of compute-intensive applications, and was not built specifically for OPC. But Joe Sawicki, vice president and general manager of Mentor's design to silicon division, noted that Mentor and Mercury worked closely together to port Mentor's OPC modelling infrastructure onto the Cell, take advantage of parallelisation, and optimise Calibre nmOPC for the Cell's Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) library.

"Absent innovation, we are facing a crisis in turnaround time with OPC," Sawicki said. As process sizes shrink, and model complexity grows, more and more CPUs are needed to get a reasonable turnaround time, he said. Even at 65 nm, according to Sawicki, some customers are using 1,000 processor nodes to run OPC.

With a coprocessor acceleration (CPA) cluster of 25-50 Cell processors, Sawicki said, 100 to 200 general-purpose CPUs can achieve the same computing capacity as 750 to 1,000 CPUs without a CPA. Cost, space, and power consumption will be dramatically reduced, he said.

IBM's multicore Cell architecture is "uniquely suited" to tackling OPC, Sawicki said. Originally aimed at gaming applications, the Cell contains one PowerPC processor and 8 "synergistic processing elements." The Cell's strength is rapid image processing. Compared to an Opteron processor, a Cell processor can speed OPC simulation using Fast Fourier Transforms (FFTs) by 50 to 100 times, Sawicki said.

Mercury's Dual-Cell-Based Blade offers peak performance of 400 Gigaflops, features two Cell BE processors, and includes XDR memory from Rambus Inc. Mercury also offers the MultiCore Plus Software Development Kit (SDK) to program the Cell BE.

Mark Skalabrin, vice president and general manager of Mercury's advanced solutions business unit, said that teams from Mentor and Mercury looked at a number of possible ways to speed OPC computations, including FPGAs, DSPs and general-purpose processors. The Cell emerged as the best choice, he said. "There's a very significant gain. Some algorithms are 50 to 100 times faster," he said.

Art Weiboldt, director of deep computing sales from IBM's systems and technology group, noted that the Cell's heritage with graphical gaming applications fits well with OPC. "A large percentage of OPC simulation is image simulation, and the Cell BE by design is very fast at image simulation," he said. "Also, OPC can be parallelized, and can take advantage of the single instruction multiple data (SIMD) this processor implements."

Weiboldt said IBM has a roadmap in place that will move the Cell towards "teraflops peak performance," and he suggested that the Cell BE might be a good fit for other EDA applications, such as timing, extraction, and design rule checking (DRC).

New approach to OPC
Calibre nmOPC brings about a number of improvements beyond the ability to run on Cell BE-based hardware. One is a move to grid-based, "dense" simulation. As Sawicki explained, OPC until now has generally used "sparse" simulation that doesn't involve all of the points on a grid. But dense simulation, which uses the entire grid and is thus more accurate, actually becomes more efficient with increasing layout density, he said.

A fourth generation compact resist process model, called CM1, supports dense simulation and claims better accuracy than its predecessors. It claims advantages in stability, calibration automation, and process window accuracy. Compared to previous models, Sawicki said, CM1 is much better at modelling across process windows and accounting for lithographic variability.

A single command in nmOPC optimises the correction for gate critical dimension (CD) uniformity. This, said Sawicki, simplifies setup file generation and improves parametric yield.

Other features of Calibre nmOPC include design intent-aware correction algorithms, Oasis formatting, new streamlined hierarchical processing, a progress meter and dynamic CPU allocation capability, and process window correction optimisation algorithms.

Calibre nmOPC is available immediately starting at Rs.54.62 lakh ($120,000). The Dual Cell-Based Blade is available separately from Mercury Computer. Mentor declined to name any customers for Calibre nmOPC.

- Richard Goering
EE Times

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