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Advanced Floorplanning with

Olympus-SoC for Fast and Reliable


Design Closure

W h i t e P a p e r

Mentor Graphics

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Advanced Floorplanning with Olympus-SoC

Introduction
As the first step in a netlist-to-GDSII design flow, floorplanning presents the SoC designer with challenges and
opportunities that affect the rest of the design flow, from block implementation, to chip assembly and top-level
closure. It is particularly important in hierarchical floorplanning to quickly solve macro and IO pad placement,
accurately estimate timing, power and area, create top-level power networks, and to efficiently partition the design.
Floorplanning for large, complex ICs and SoCs depends on a high capacity solution that allows early timing
estimations in a multi-mode, multi-corner (MCMM) context, supports all varieties of multi-Vdd flows, and offers
wide flexibility between automatic and manual placements of all floorplan objects.
In this paper, we review floorplanning challenges and show how the Olympus-SoC implementation system
comprehensively addresses all those challenges to produce the best floorplan in the shortest time.

About Hierarchical Design Methodologies


Floorplanning is an essential element of hierarchical design flows, especially for large SoC designs. A typical SoC
could include hundreds of RAMs, soft and hard IP, analog blocks, and multiple power domains. A hierarchical
methodology extends the capacity of design-automation tools, improves tool runtimes, and mitigates overall
design risk by minimizing last minute design changes.
A hierarchical design flow typically includes three main stages:
Floorplanning block placement, pin assignment, design partitioning, time budgeting, power and clock
planning
Block implementation placement, clock tree synthesis (CTS), routing, optimization
Chip assembly block instantiation, top-level glue logic optimization, top-level CTS/routing, global wire
buffering, power and clock routing, etc.
The decisions made during floorplanning about the location of pins, pads, blocks, and partitions, as well as the
overall power plan, carry though and impact the rest of the implementation. Floorplanning allows designers to
perform what-if analysis of critical design metrics such as performance, timing, power, and area when there is
more flexibility in the layout. Estimations are shared, and floorplanning modifications are often done iteratively
between the package or board designers, the chip-level designer, and the block-level engineers.
The outcome of the floorplanning stage is a completed arrangement of macros and IO pads, a power plan, and
partitioned blocks that can then be implemented in parallel. After the block implementations are complete,
everything is reassembled for top-level routing and optimization. This is where errors from poor floorplanning and
block implementation are revealed, which leads to unnecessary iterations, late-cycle unpredictability, and missed
market opportunities.
To minimize the impact of surprises in chip assembly, design teams need floorplanning, block implementation, and
chip assembly tools that accommodate small changes without disrupting the design flow. The ability to efficiently
incorporate small ECOs (engineering change orders) between the SoC-level and block level greatly reduce the risks
associated with hierarchical flows, and shorten the time to design closure. We will elaborate more on the ECO
process later in this paper.

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Advanced Floorplanning with Olympus-SoC

Floorplanning Challenges
Each design project has different challenges and goals, but there are some issues that commonly arise for physical
design teams.

Bad IO Pad Placement


A common situation during floorplanning is the lack of well defined IO constraints from the board or package
teams. With no guidance on IO placement, the order and location of IO pads can be suboptimal for package-level
requirements, and for chip level timing closure (Figure 1). The true impact of IO pad locations is usually obscure
until more detailed placement and routing is complete, at which point designers must iterate back to floorplanning
to fix the IO pad locations manually, then perform placement and routing again. These time-consuming iterations
can add unacceptable risk to design schedules.

Figure 1. Sub-optimal IO placements can lead to long paths over macros. In the design shown, the IOs should be
placed on the bottom left side to have better access to the logic pins. Changing the IO placements can be
tedious, particularly if the problem is not discovered until later in the design flow.

Time-Consuming and Suboptimal Macro Placement


Achieving optimal macro placement can be a significant challenge, particularly for SoCs with hundreds of cores,
memories, and 3rd party IP. In years past, macro placement was a purely manual task. Today, designers must rely on
floorplanning software for a quick, automated initial placement before manual refinement. Tools typically cluster
macros based on wire length, but there may be other metrics to consider, such as critical path timing, power
domains, congestion, and minimization of narrow channels between blocks. These are all factors that traditionally
are addressed through manual refinement of the seed floorplan. The challenge lies in the difficulty of that task. On
a practical level, designers need better seed placement, and a powerful macro editing capability that can assist in
spacing and aligning groups of macros.

Inadequate Region Shaping, Partitioning, and Pin Assignment


In hierarchical flows, floorplans are partitioned into functional groups that constrain physical placement of standard
cells and macros. The grouping criteria can be based on clock generation logic, hierarchical implementation
boundaries, or voltage domains (multi-Vdd).
Designers need a deep knowledge of the IC, but they also need the floorplanning tool to be flexible enough to
handle different use models and shapes (rectangular or rectilinear) for regions, while always respecting the logical
hierarchy of the input netlist. Challenges in floorplanning for multi-Vdd designs lie in defining the voltage domains,
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Advanced Floorplanning with Olympus-SoC

creating multiple power grids, and in inserting the special cells such as switches, level shifters, retention registers,
and always-on buffers. Poorly shaped regions and broken logical hierarchy contribute to delayed schedules and
suboptimal timing, power, and area.
Once the regions are determined, the region/partition pins are assigned. The challenge is to create pin placements
that satisfy any number of design criteria, but most importantly the timing requirements between blocks for all
corner/mode scenarios. Typically, pin assignments are based on wire length only, as determined by Steiner-based
estimations. Poor pin assignments can wreak havoc on inter-partition timing paths, and lead to costly ECOs
between the block level and chip level late in the design cycle.

Inaccurate Timing and Power Estimations


Getting accurate estimations of timing, power, and area as quickly as possible is the goal of the floorplanning/
prototyping stage. The timing analysis does not need to be sign-off accurate, but it should include as many corner
cases as is feasible, and account for manufacturing variability. For example, if the timing signoff includes a dozen
mode/corner combinations, the floorplanning timing estimations are needed for all the timing scenarios, and not
just worst case and best case.
Power estimations at this stage need to correlate with more detailed analysis later in the flow. Inaccurate power
estimates can allow errors in the power plans to derail block and top-level closure. Multi-Vdd designs also
introduce additional power meshes, so the floorplanner must be capable of creating and connecting multiple
power domains.

Lack of Tool Capacity, Flexible Use Models, and ECOs


Design data sets are becoming ever larger, and EDA tool capacity hasnt been able to keep up. Capacity and
runtimes are now interfering with design schedules for SoCs that can have hundreds of RAMs, 200 million gates,
multiple modes, multiple corners, and many power islands. For the larger designs, floorplanning is often the only
opportunity to view the entire design in a flat (vs. hierarchical) representation. This is essential to obtaining good
early estimations of design constraints by being able to run global routing, extraction, and analysis.
While it is tempting to believe that the block implementations will advance independently of one another, the
reality is that implementation requires at least some iterations and feedback loops at the chip-level, and there will
probably be interactions among blocks as well. When the blocks can only be represented with abstractions at the
top-level, optimizations are limited to top-level logic. This limitation usually occurs because a complete full-chip flat
representation exceeds the data capacity of most tools.
Changes based on block-level work, such as modifications to block placement, incremental re-assignment of block
pin locations, power routing, or block timing and power budgets, are usually difficult to incorporate at the chiplevel. Without flexibility in use models and a robust engineering change order (ECO) capability, designers can be
stuck with time-consuming and non-convergent iterations between levels of physical and logical hierarchy. This is
particularly frustrating when faced with frequent file transfers between different point tools in the design flow.

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Advanced Floorplanning with Olympus-SoC

The Olympus-SoC Floorplanning Solution


To complete floorplanning faster and with better quality, Olympus-SoC includes the following tool capabilities:
Flexible IO pad placement strategies
Automatic and assisted macro placement and alignment
Automatic region shaping, partitioning, and timing-driven pin assignment
Native multi-corner multi-mode (MCMM) timing and signal integrity analysis
Full UPF support and robust power planning for multi-Vdd designs
Fast and reliable chip assembly support
Highest tool capacity, compact memory footprint, and an intuitive, easy to use GUI

Flexible, High-quality IO Pad Placement


Olympus-SoC has very flexible use models for IO pad placement. Olympus-SoC can implement a design with or
without a pad ring or pin placement file from the package designer. In the absence of external IO pad constraints,
users can perform quick full-chip, timing-driven global placement and global routing, to get the best logic
clustering and timing estimations to meet design metrics, then assign the IO pads based on that. This is a quick
way to get very fast feedback regarding the routability and timing of the design. A congestion map helps identify
hot spots that can be fixed through further what-if analysis loops.
Olympus-SoC also supports initial IO pad placement, followed by quick iterations between prototype macro
placement and IO pad refinement. Refinement can be done through automatic, iterative re-placements, or through
manually specifying constraints through the intuitive graphical user interface.
Whether the IOs are placed before or after the standard cells and macros, designers must be able to easily add and
edit IO constraints to configure the side and order for the pads, and the layer and pitch for the pins. Olympus-SoC
provides the IO Constraint Editor, shown in Figure 2, which displays IOs graphically and allows the user to assign
sides, orders, layers, and pitches for the IO pins. Olympus-SoC can also infer, or derive, constraints based on an
existing IO pad (and partition pin) placement, providing a useful starting place for further constraint editing.

Figure 2. The IO Constraints Editor facilitates pin constraint editing with cross-probing, robust filtering, and
flylines. IO ports can be automatically aligned, and Olympus-SoC can infer constraints based on current
placements.

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Advanced Floorplanning with Olympus-SoC

As the floorplan, or even the block implementation, progresses and more detailed information is available,
designers often find that the pin assignments need adjustment. Rather than re-assigning all pins, Olympus-SoC
supports incremental pin assignment. Designers can specify which pins to re-assign, while keeping the rest of the
pins fixed.
After placing the IO signal pins, Olympus-SoC will place the IO filler cells and power/ground pads. The IO
placements can then be written out in industry-standard formats for use by board, package, or top-level SoC
planning purposes. This link between board, package, and SoC becomes more important at 45 nm and below
because of tighter design constraints and more pad-limited designs.

Automatic Macro Placement and Macro Refinement


Olympus-SoC automatically creates a seed macro placement that can be manually refined with the help of
Olympus-SoCs macro alignment and spacing capabilities. Macros can be individually aligned with the region or
other macros, or aligned and spaced as a group with the automated Matrix Assist. Multiple macros can easily be
aligned on a single edge or on multiple edges in an array with specified spacing between each macro, as shown in
Figure 3.

Figure 3. The large macros in this screen capture have already been aligned with just a few button clicks. Using the
Matrix align and space capability, all the smaller macros can be instantly arranged into a matrix with specified
spacing between them. Multiple macros can also be grouped and moved as a single object.

Automatic Region Shaping, Partitioning, and Pin Assignment


Regions constrain the physical placement of standard cells to particular areas. This is typically used to address
timing and routability concerns, such as grouping clock generation logic, defining hierarchical implementation
boundaries, and defining voltage domain boundaries. The Olympus-SoC floorplanner supports many different use
models for region creation. Regions can be defined as hard or soft constraints for placement only, or for
optimization and clock tree synthesis (CTS). Regions can be automatically created based on the designs logical
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Advanced Floorplanning with Olympus-SoC

hierarchy, or manually shaped, facilitated by colorized logic groupings. Regions can also be manually moved,
resized, reshaped, or split into smaller regions. Egresses (bumps) and ingresses (notches) are created by adding or
deleting rectangles from the existing regions.
As regions are hardened into partitions, Olympus-SoCs fast timing-driven prototype placement and global routing
predicts where routes will cross the partition boundaries, and assigns partition pins based on that. The placement
and routing engines support multi-mode, multi-corner constraints, so pin assignments are optimized based on
timing and wire length that will satisfy all mode/corner scenarios.

Multi-mode, Multi-corner Timing Analysis and Optimization


Olympus-SoC concurrently analyzes and optimizes for all design metrics across any number of mode/corner
scenarios. Timing information for every circuit node is stored in a data structure called the timing graph, which is
the fundamental component of any place-and-route software architecture. The core innovation in MCMM is an
extremely concise vector-based timing graph structure that simultaneously captures timing information for an
unlimited number of mode/corner combinations. Rather than merging timing files or performing sequential timing
analysis for multiple scenarios, the Olympus-SoC system creates multiple timing graphs, and then stores them as a
single representation. This enables all the timing scenarios to be accurately represented without added memory or
runtime costs.
MCMM timing analysis performed during floorplaning produces better IO pad and block pin assignments, and
generates more accurate timing estimations for paths that span blocks.

Complete Support for Multi-Vdd Designs


Olympus-SoC fully supports Unified Power Format (UPF) directives. Power islands are created in the same manner
as any partition, and Olympus-SoC automatically inserts and connects special cells such as switches, level shifters,
always-on buffers, and retention registers. Olympus-SoC has a multi-Vdd browser that supports cross-probing with
the layout window to facilitate analysis and debugging of the design, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. With the Multi-Voltage browser, the power domains and the cells assigned to each domain can be
easily navigated. Items selected in the browser are highlighted in the chip view for cross-probing operation.

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Advanced Floorplanning with Olympus-SoC

Regardless of the number of voltage domains, Olympus-SoC can create and connect all power routing at block or
top level. Rings, stripes, and vias are automatically generated based on user configuration and connected to follow
pins. Users can manually choose which vias to use or let Olympus-SoC determine the correct vias, either from
among defined LEF vias or by generating them using the default via generation rules in the LEF file. Users can also
specify which kind of power connections to make: stripe-to-stripe, stripe-to-macro, and stripe-to-cell. Olympus-SoC
has the ability to create multiple power networks for multi-vdd designs.

Integrated Support for Top-Level Optimization, Chip Assembly, and ECOs


For hierarchical designs, Olympus-SoC can maintain convergence between top and block levels during
optimization at any stage of the design flow. If working with abstraction models for the partitions, some
optimizations will require ECO iterations. One way Olympus-SoC improves the ECO flow is to allow users to mix
different levels of hierarchy at the top-level. Users can choose to view some blocks flat, others as black-box models,
and still others as traditional interface logic models ILMs. This conserves capacity, runtime, and resources.
For even more top-level flexibility, Olympus-SoC generates ILMs that contain the physical placement and routing
information that is relevant to top-level optimizations. This allows for Olympus-SoC to access block-level resources
when optimizing inter-block routes. For example, to fix an excessively long route between two blocks, OlympusSoC can make adjustments to the blocks pin placements, iteratively re-routing the wires and using different layers
if needed (Figure 5). This top-level wire straightening is automated and iterative, and the changes made to top-and
block level logic are completely convergent.
Before Layer Promotion

80% wire length


on M3-M5

After Layer Promotion

90% wire length


on top metal layers

Many short jogs


and layer
changes

Short jogs
eliminated

Figure 5. Layer promotion is a technique used by Olympus-SoC to reduce resistance in top-level routing.

Another option available in Olympus-SoC to stretch capacity and save on runtime is to selectively turn off some
levels of logical hierarchy with regard to timing. That allows Olympus-SoC to access the relevant physical
information, but not spend computational resources on extraction and timing of those modules. Olympus-SoC is
unique in the level of flexibility offered in both flat and hierarchical flows. Olympus-SoC also offers capabilities like
SyncOpt, which automatically updates all occurrences of a block when a change is made to any of its instances.
Many IC flows also call for some amount of automatic or manual detail routing and wire editing of critical nets. For
manual editing, the Olympus-SoC wire editor provides a robust and intuitive environment, supporting automatic
preferred-layer routing, via creation, and non-adjacent layer wire creation.
Olympus-SoC also provides real-time, interactive DRC, giving instant feedback for all objects being manipulated, as
illustrated in Figure 6.

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Advanced Floorplanning with Olympus-SoC

Figure 6. Manual wire editing with interactive DRC checking gives instant feedback on common design rule
violations as wires are drawn or moved.

Capacity, Runtime, Efficiency


Olympus-SoC has the data capacity to load and process designs with 400 million of more gates to provide faster
floorplanning turn-around-time. The fully multithreaded timing engine reduces analysis time, and the easy-to-use
GUI greatly improves the efficiency of macro placement, IO pin constraints editing, wire editing, and power domain
analysis. All engines within Olympus-SoC operate on a common database, so no time or memory are wasted in file
transfers. Olympus-SoC supports all the standard inputs such as LEF, DEF, and Verilog, as well as UPF for power
specifications.

Conclusion
Floorplanning is the foundation of a quality IC implementation. The decisions made regarding IO pad placement,
macro placement, partitioning, pin assignment, and power planning ripple through the place-and-route flow.
Designers need solutions that can handle extremely large data sets, design variability and complexity, in addition to
enabling fast, high-quality floorplanning.
Olympus-SoC has a complete floorplanning solution with a flexible tool infrastructure and large capacity. It
generates high-quality floorplans and accurate early estimations of design constraints based on MCMM timing.
Flexible support for mixed-level hierarchy throughout the flow keeps ECOs to a minimum and maintains physical
and logical convergences between top and block levels. Olympus-SoC is a complete, tapeout-proven, netlist-toGDSII solution for very large, advanced-node SoCs.

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Advanced Floorplanning with Olympus-SoC

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