Prototyping system scales to multi-MHz performance for billion gate designs

29th May 2019
Mick Elliott

Verification Suite and System Innovation offerings have been expanded at Cadence Design Systems with the announcement of the Protium X1 Enterprise Prototyping Platform, a data centre-optimised FPGA-based prototyping system providing multi-MHz speed for early software development, hardware/software regressions and full system validation.

The Protium X1 architecture is applicable to a wide range of design sizes and applications, from multi-billion-gate AI and 5G chips to single-FPGA IoT chips and IP blocks.

Using the Protium X1 platform, customers can experience up to 80% faster bring-up, while also benefitting from scalable capacity of up to 32 racks, offering up to 24X more capacity than competing desktop prototyping systems.

The platform also scales to multi-MHz performance for billion gate designs, overcoming the architecture limitations of traditional systems that drop in performance for designs above 400 million gates.

“Protium X1 marks the third generation of Cadence’s prototyping platforms using Xilinx FPGA devices. As part of our long-term business partnership, Xilinx and Cadence have closely collaborated to enable Cadence’s software frontend to work seamlessly with Xilinx Vivado Design Suite backend” said Hanneke Krekels, senior director of Test, Measurement and Emulation, Xilinx. “Cadence’s Protium X1 FPGA-based prototyping platform is positioned to deliver multi-MHz performance for billion gate designs using our Virtex UltraScale VU440 devices, which deliver a 2.2x increase in device density and 21 percent more I/O, making it ideally suited for scalable enterprise prototyping in the data centre.”

Architected from the ground up to provide extreme scalability and flexibility in a data centre-optimised form factor, the platform is a solution for pre-silicon software development for high-speed billion-gate designs.

It eliminates the need to cut down designs in size for FPGA-based prototyping, while enabling hardware/software regressions at higher speed with less debug and full system validation with real-world interfaces like USB and Ethernet.

The Protium X1 platform offers:

  • Scalable performance: The platform’s new partitioning and interconnect technology enables the best possible performance and early firmware and software development, enabling customers to achieve up to 5MHz on billion-gate designs and up to 100MHz for single-FPGA designs.
  • Scalable capacity: The platform features an advanced blade architecture that enables customers to scale up to 32 racks and 1,536 FPGAs to handle large, multi-billion-gate designs that are typical for AI, 5G and graphics applications.
  • Fast prototype bring-up: The platform’s unified compile with the Protium S1 desktop prototyping platform and the PalladiumÒ Z1 enterprise emulation platform, and the new and enhanced memory modeling and implementation capabilities, including support for UFS 2.0, HMB2 and LPDDR5, allow designers to transition from emulation to prototyping in days, enabling earlier firmware development.
  • Advanced debug capabilities: The platform offers new productivity and throughput-enhancing features including a new high-performance data capture card, which captures thousands of signals for 10s of millions of clock cycles in real time. Additionally, it includes a new Prototyping Full Visibility capability that provides dynamic access to all signals without recompilation, improving overall verification throughput.
  • Multi-user functionality: The platform offers customers more flexibility and greater system utilisation by offering single-FPGA granularity, allowing users to run jobs on the exact number of FPGAs they need while other jobs run simultaneously within the system, which can be used for storage, automotive, image, consumer and medical applications.

“The Protium X1 platform is a breakthrough solution which augments classic desktop prototyping with true flexible and scalable enterprise prototyping required to handle the large designs for today’s applications such as AI and 5G,” said Paul Cunningham, corporate vice president and general manager of the System & Verification Group at Cadence. “For the first time, billion-gate designs can be executed at up to 5MHz, while the unified front-end with the Palladium Z1 platform assures fast design bring-up. With the Protium X1 platform, customers can now experience the same benefits they achieved from the desktop in the data centre.”

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