Working with three government
agencies and Princeton University for more than a decade, ASC has developed
a tool to solve the low power optimization problem.
As today's electronic designs become more complex and foundry technologies have shrunk, power consumption
has increased, causing power management to become a critical design priority.
Higher power consumption has a negative effect on battery life, packaging,
cooling costs, and reliability. New low-power design methodologies
are necessary to address this problem.
Competition is driving the requirement for power optimization and shorter
design cycles. In the past low power design methodology mainly consisted of
power analysis, utilizing tools that report power consumption
of a design at various stages of the design cycle. This method generally
results in costly design rework (or "spins"). Today's designs require
power optimization tools that address power consumption early
in the design cycle and reduce time to market.
As it follows from equations describing power dissipation in a circuit,
there are four factors that ultimately determine power dissipation:
* magnitude of supply voltage * switching activity in the circuit * switching capacitive loads * clock frequency
Numerous optimization methods targeting each of these four factors have
been explored. Reduction of supply voltage, multiple voltage supplies,
reduction of capacitive loads through gate sizing, and minimization of
switching activity by exploiting signal correlation are just a few. However,
the four factors strongly interact in ways that may cancel out
power optimization benefits obtained by adjusting only one of them.
Additionally, many studies have shown that only optimizations applied
sufficiently early in the design cycle, when a design's architecture is
not yet fixed, have potential for radical power reduction. While gate
tuning at the logic level produces reductions averaging 15%, optimizations
at behavior and architectural levels can slash power consumption by close
to a factor of 10. Thus, to make intelligent decisions in power optimization,
the tools have to simultaneously consider all four factors affecting power
dissipation, and be applied early in the design cycle.

Other factors also dictate a transition to designing at higher levels.
Efficient exploration of the new delay-power-area three-dimensional space
calls for new design tools with fast turnaround, and behavioral
synthesis has been shown to be up to 30x faster than logic synthesis.
Apart from run-time performance, designing at the behavioral level presents
greater available design choices. Most importantly, the sheercomplexity of today's designs forces the move to capturing designs
at the behavior level, for it's hardly possible to conceptualize million-gate
circuits even at the RT-level.
ASC's PACIFIC behavioral synthesis tool is used at the beginning of
the design process to dramatically reduce power consumption. It allows
designs to be optimized for three parameters - power, delay, and area.
The tool synthesizes behavioral HDL designs into structural RTL with the
primary objective of minimizing power consumption. Area of the design can be treated
as either a constraint, or an optimization parameter, along with power.
The tool can also determine the optimal clock period for the design. The
output is compatible with standard-input RTL synthesis tools.

Obtaining a license

To obtain a license for evaluating PACIFIC and information about RTL-level library characterization, please contact ASC.

Publications

K. S. Khouri, G. Lakshminarayana, and N. K. Jha, "High-level synthesis
of low power control-flow intensive circuits,'' IEEE Trans. on Computer-Aided
Design, vol. 18, Dec. 1999.

G. Lakshminarayana, A. Raghunathan, N. K. Jha, and S. Dey, "Power
management in high-level synthesis,'' IEEE Trans. on VLSI Systems, vol.
7, Mar. 1999.

G. Lakshminarayana and N. K. Jha, "High-level synthesis of power-optimized
and area-optimized circuits from hierarchical data-flow intensive behaviors,''
IEEE Trans. on Computer-Aided Design, vol. 18, Mar. 1999.

A. Raghunathan, S. Dey, and N. K. Jha, "Register transfer level power
optimization with emphasis on glitch analysis and reduction,'' IEEE~Trans.
on Computer-Aided Design, vol. 18, Aug. 1999.

G. Lakshminarayana and N. K. Jha, "FACT: A framework for applying
throughput and power optimizing transformations to control-flow intensive
behavioral descriptions,'' IEEE Trans. on Computer-Aided Design, vol.
18, Jan. 2000.