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Silexica’s Hardware/Software Co-design

October 3, 2017

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

German startup Silexica is pursuing two difficult goals—optimizing sequential code for parallel execution, and finding the optimal hardware to run the software. Either pursuit alone would be challenging enough for most companies, but Silexica views them as inextricably linked. Parallelism has limited value if either the hardware or the software can’t fully exploit it. Consequently, the company’s SLX technology enables high-level systemwide analysis of both domains.

SLX tools are most effective at the dawn of a design project, when both the hardware and software are malleable. Tweaking the hardware design for better parallelism can yield big gains in software performance, and vice versa. When the hardware design is already frozen or even deployed in the field, the software must adapt to it, but significant gains are still possible.

Silexica isn’t trying to replace existing tools for hardware and software development. Nor do its tools replace System-C modeling or cycle-accurate hardware simulators. Instead, SLX is a suite of high-level analytical tools that work above traditional EDA tools, compilers, simulators, and debuggers. By raising the abstraction level, Silexica can improve design efficiency—especially if the architects have many alternatives to evaluate and each iteration is time consuming, as it usually is with lower-level EDA tools.

SLX has been shipping since mid-2014 and has attracted some notable customers. Yet one aspect of the technology—creating an accurate system model—is hard to evaluate and perhaps the most difficult for customers to achieve. The better the model, the better the analysis, but better models are harder to build and calibrate for accurate performance. Before committing to SLX, potential customers should look closely at what’s required to build their model and obtain sufficient accuracy.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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