Like many people who work in high tech, from time to time I’ve had trouble explaining my profession to family and friends. Unless you are pretty tech savvy it is hard to understand exactly what a SoC engineer does everyday. The other day I was driving in my car dropping my son off at Cub Scouts when he asked me, “Dad what do you do at work?” It’s the kind of question that comes out of the blue and you struggle to answer. I paused for a few moments searching for a simplified answer and responded “I make ARM processors go faster.” He seemed satisfied with that answer, and quickly became distracted when his favorite song came on the radio; when you’re a seven year old you just love singing in the car!
When I joined ARM in 1997 I was a SoC engineer in ARM’s consulting group, the group’s main focus was to enable a Partner to get to market faster by taking advantage of ARM’s experience in integration of an ARM processor in a full system on chip design. While my job has changed a number of times at ARM and I have worked with many different ARM partners, the focus has remained the same; it’s always been about enabling partners with the fastest and easiest deployment of ARM technology.
For the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to have one of the most exciting product management roles at ARM. I am the product manager for ARM’s Processor Optimization Pack which helps ARM Partners obtain the best processor implementation with the highest performance and lowest power, in the fastest time possible.
What is a Processor Optimization Pack or POP? ARM Processor Optimization Packs are really a combination of three critical elements. First there is custom designed Artisan Physical IP; standard cells, logic and memory instances. This IP has been developed in concert with the ARM Cortex™ processors by tightly coupled engineering teams from ARM’s Processor and Physical IP Divisions. Next, the IP is comprehensively benchmarked in an iterative process with hundreds of different implementations in order to determine the best possible solution. Then the solution is detailed in the exact conditions and configurations in a certified benchmark report. Finally, ARM provides detailed implementation knowledge in the form of the iRM and POP User Implementation Guide. This allows the customer to get the exact same results as achieved in the benchmarking report.
Last week, I attended an ARM active assist implementation training class for one of our ARM® Cortex-A15 POP lead partners. The partner explained the he had taken early IP POP, integrated it and was delighted with the results. He quickly proclaimed that without our POP product it would have taken much longer to get the same results, yet within weeks they had reached a performance milestone and were now prioritising other design closure activities; like design for test and physical closure – ahead of schedule. At that moment I was as proud as the partner’s engineering team.
Today, ARM has licensed the Processor Optimization Pack to more than 35 partners enabling each of them to obtain the best SoC implementation while accelerating their design cycle. ARM’s POPs are also the foundation for ARM’s Hard Macro program. There are processor optimization packs for the Cortex™-A processor series including Cortex-A9 and the Cortex-A5. We also have POPs in development for our latest processors the Cortex-A15 and Cortex-A7 as well as the big.LITTLE processing combination.
So in summary, we’ve custom developed the physical IP, run hundreds of benchmarks so you don’t have to and provided the implementation knowledge to enable you to replicate the results in the fastest time possible. Without the POP, it’s just like buying a toy kit; if no one has ever built it and it doesn’t include a set of instructions to follow, you could probably still put it together but it would take considerably more time just looking at the picture on the box. With the Processor Optimization Pack, ARM makes the investment, and our partners get the benefit. So, who said silicon design needs to be difficult, although it still remains tough to explain to a seven year old….
Just Announced - First 28nm ARM Cortex-A9 Processor Optimization Pack now Available for GLOBALFOUNDRIES 28nm-SLP HKMG Process.
Rahoul Varma, POP Marketing, ARM, is based in the UK. Rahoul has been with ARM for more than 14 years; he’s been an SoC designer, an implementation engineer and on led processor implementation teams. Rahoul keeps a close eye on semiconductor technology and how the latest innovations in Physical IP design can enable the best possible ARM Processor implementations.
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