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Cell-Based Cluster to be Used for EDA Acceleration


Mercury Computer Systems Inc. has signed an agreement with Mentor Graphics to jointly develop and deliver a fully integrated electronic design automation (EDA) platform. The platform is based on the Cell Broadband Engine (BE) processor developed originally by IBM, Sony, and Toshiba for the Sony PlayStation 3 video game console and other consumer electronics devices.

"Our partnership with Mercury combines two companies' strengths that bring unprecedented software and hardware innovation to the EDA industry," said Walden Rhines, CEO, Mentor Graphics, Inc. "Increasing complexity across the entire IC design flow puts tremendous pressure on hardware platforms. Mercury's Cell BE compute cluster holds great promise to relieve this pressure while protecting the existing investment in hardware."

Mercury has worked closely with Mentor, a supplier of EDA solutions, to migrate its Calibre OPC product to Mercury's Cell BE processor-based high-performance compute cluster. Using Mercury's experience in optimizing application performance, and the Mercury MultiCore Plus SDK (Software Development Kit), the companies have achieved more than an order of magnitude performance improvement for the new-generation platform.

"Working with innovative market leaders like Mentor Graphics is an important part of Mercury's strategy to expand our market presence," said Jay Bertelli, President and CEO of Mercury Computer Systems. "Mercury's demonstrated leadership in architecting ultimate performance computing solutions that are optimized for specialized applications, together with Mentor's EDA market leadership, is an ideal combination to drive value for our mutual customers."

Hardware acceleration techniques are increasingly implemented in specialized applications that require more processing power than mainstream solutions can offer. The novel platform combines a standard compute cluster with the Cell BE processor to deliver up to a 20x increase in compute capacity and speed now required for resolution enhancement tool (RET) applications at and below 45nm.

The amount of computation required to complete the 45nm and below RET flow has increased dramatically compared to that of the 65nm node. Larger devices, larger optical diameters, more model kernels, through-process simulation, and more compute-intensive process modeling have pushed computation requirements for the 45nm node from 5 to 20 times that of the 65nm node. Even if critical layer jobs can complete on standard farms, the turn-around time (TAT) is unacceptable, and the number of CPUs and licenses are too costly. In addition, companies moving to 45nm want to preserve their current hardware investment.

Mentor turned to Mercury as a partner to research and develop the new architecture. The partnership take advantage of Mentor's expertise in Computational Lithography and Mercury's advanced HPC systems to construct the architecture for next-generation EDA applications.

The Cell processor clusters accelerate the image processing components of Mentor's optical proximity correction tool, Calibre nmOPC, enabling 4x to 10x improvements in run time with little to no increase in general purpose computing requirements over the 65nm node. According to Mentor, this application of the Cell processor to computational lithography will lower the cost of ownership targets for the industry in line with customer requirements for cost mitigation.

"Cell BE's order of magnitude performance advantage for many types of image-based computing can make it a great fit for semiconductor-related applications like Mentor's new dense imaging software technology," said Anthony Yu, IBM's vice president, Semiconductor Industry Sales, Technology Collaboration Solutions. "Cell BE's deployment by an EDA company like Mentor Graphics can put Cell BE at the forefront of enabling advanced semiconductor processing."

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