Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few common questions we get asked about Analog Rails. Perhaps this will answer a few of yours...

  • Q: What is Analog Rails?
  • A: Analog Rails is a disruptive design environment created for the circuit designer. It is a complete mixed-signal, open-access based, EDA platform that allows the circuit designer to be a "One Stop Shop". With our tools, layout and CAD groups will not be needed, nor are custom wrappers needed to make the tool usable. Layout is mostly automatic enabling the circuit designer to do it quickly and conveniently. Design Management, in all popular revision control systems, is included. It combines Correct by Construction automation (front to back) and handcrafted editing options, as well as built in verification. Designs can be created from scratch or migrated in hours rather than months. Please see our home page for more information.

  • Q: Can our layout designers use Analog Rails?
  • A: Analog/Digital Rails tools are intended for circuit designers. We are of the opinion that circuit designers should have full control over their own layouts, from floor planning to the required iterative improvements, thru final tapeout. Analog/Digital Rails gives circuit designers just that: FULL CONTROL. Automation of layout structures and routes allow simulation with all parasitics at all times. Circuit designers create better layouts by utilizing black space and making informed tradeoffs that even the best layout designers just can't make. Automation enables "what if" scenarios. Our automatic router is DRC/LVS correct and ELECTRICALLY AWARE. The circuit designer coupled with our fully integrated, instantly back annotated, automation tools will easily beat the performance and speed of experienced layout designers.

    • Q: I've never heard of Analog Rails. Are you a startup company?
    • A: No. We have been at this for over 16 years. We have recently automated Analog & Digital layouts down to 14nm. We also now have verification.

    • Q: How much CAD support is needed?
    • A: None. Analog Rails is a complete flow that includes design/data management and an easy to use PDK interface. Designers can easily control the netlisting procedures and measurements/calculators for in-house simulators. The data management system works with SVN, GIT, Perforce, and DesignSync. We can add more. It is what we do. Our design management system, unlike 3rd party DM systems, shows what has changed in the designs and the PDK. No custom in-house or 3rd party wrappers needed to make the tools usable.

    • Q: I noticed you have digital place and route? I thought you just had analog automation.

    • A: Run digital place and route with a touch of a button, all within the Analog/Digital Rails design environment. Just like in analog mode, full cross probing and synchronization with the schematic is maintained. Your standard cells are converted to characterized and parameterized standard cells on the fly. Currently, the digital place and route is not timing based. Timing based synthesis also available.

    • Q: How do we make pcells that will work in our process?

    • A: With our easy and convenient PDK interface. The proper STI layout effects will be netlisted out AT ALL TIMES based on abutment, well distances, diffusion group distances, etc. No more useless callbacks. The common centroid differential structures with a symmetrical guard ring and gate protection diodes are automatically generated. GP diodes and hot well substrate diodes are recognized in the layout and automatically generated in the schematic. The structures are created with tool knowledge based on manual editing, automatic placement, and automatic routing. For non-standard structures, the library group can create pcells graphically. Coding is not needed.

    • Q: How do you match FETs?

    • A: Simply press "=" icon, select the pair of devices to match, hit space bar to review settings, and then “OK”. The differential router creates a shielded wall. There are a variety of common matching options available (all router friendly), but even the defaults provide a perfectly matched set.

    • Q: Can I customize the layout?

    • A: Our derailed mode and features allow customization, if you deem it necessary. However, most find out very quickly how seldom, if ever, they need to customize.

    • Q: How do you handle high speed signals?

    • A: Tag nets as "RF", to leave plenty of space in the route. Tag the FET as RF to reduce the met1 on the drain.

    • Q: How do you see electromigration (EM) and IR drop?

    • A: For EM: User selects "%". All route segments and vias exceeding that show up in layout. For R, I, and V: Just select 2 points in the layout.

    • Q: Is there an "ECO" mode? Can we decouple the layout?

    • A: Yes and Yes. The user can synchronize, unsynchronize, and even put the layout in "derailed" mode. The user can also make manual modifications after the router completes, then can optionally rerun that router to finish uncompleted routes. We are always LVS aware.

    • Q: Why do we need layout on the fly?

    • A: For simulation accuracy. At feature sizes below 130n, SA and SB have a large effect. The bogus pre-layout calculations that are provided in cdf callbacks are no longer going to cut it. There is no reason for the circuit designer to wait several days/weeks for the layout to be completed in order to get the parasitics. You get them right away as the layout iterations can now be completed so quickly.

    • Q: Can you handle finfet (16n / 14n) and other new processes?

    • A: Yes. Did it last year. Taped out on both.

    • Q: Can your tool really create layouts that are "correct by construction?"

    • A: Yes. Please see: http://www.correctbyconstruction.com

    • Q: How about manual routing?

    • A: Very powerful. Connectivity and DRC rule aware, collision avoidance, automatic maximum via insertion. Terminals light up during routing to show possible end points. Thicken wires a pitch at a time with a mouse click. More powerful than Virtuoso.

    • Q: And the automatic router?

    • A: Correct by Construction™. DRC/LVS correct. Minimizes capacitance. User setable RF, differential, shielded nets, power mesh, differential and signal aware density fill, automatic well tap connection, automatic gate protection diodes and antenna rules, double via option. Differential routes shielded. Single-ended shielded routing option (set in schematic). Maximum wire length and area per layer. We currently handle the new design rules down to 28n. 16n is in progress.

    • Q: Is your optimizer difficult to use?

    • A: Not ours. The simulation environment was built with the optimizer in mind. Place the predefined or custom measurements into the schematic, use our testbench templates or build your own, then launch. Optimizer over all corners and all analysis at the same time. We have 2 global and 2 local optimizers. User can force minimum Vds-Vdsat, Vod, etc.

    • Q: Can we just buy the pieces we need?

    • A: Basic or Premium. Please see our home page for details. However, you must realize, the greatest power of our tools is in the integration of all pieces, created to be one whole solution. The flow stays together, which consists of schematic, simulation environment, simulators (unlimited), optimizer, layout, placers, routers (single ended, RF, differential, power mesh, digital), parasitic extractor, migrator, mimic schematic, mimic layout, compactor, nudger, design/data management, and PDK GUI. They play nicely together. The whole is worth more than the sum of the parts. Why separate them? Keep in mind, we are native to OA. By definition, you can use 3rd party tools with our output (open the design in Virtuoso, run calibre, hspice, etc)

    • Q: We successfully use Cadence Virtuoso to make chips. Why do we need Analog Rails?

    • A: Grandma successfully used a wash board... then the washing machine was invented. People successfully used typewriters for years... then word processors came out and changed writing methodology dramatically. Workers successfully used picks and shovels to dig holes and ditches... then backhoes and bulldozers were invented. Each of these technological advances ushered in new eras of productivity and opened doors to whole new industries. All of these advances were disruptive to the status quo. Some are hesitant to change, while others welcome the improved methods. Those who want to get things done efficiently, and be more productive, will go with the best tools available.

      So yes, perhaps teams are 'successfully' designing IC's with the current traditional/legacy tools, but by their very nature, the current tools require mostly disjointed, painfully slow and inefficient iterative steps to complete. That success is coming at a great cost to those trying to hit PG dates by the skin of their teeth. Exhaustion and burn-out are too often part of the price paid for that success. Finally there is a viable and dramatically improved alternative. With Analog/Digital Rails automation methodology, you will design more robust and accurate IC's dramatically faster. SO end the burn-out, and get your chips out 10x faster while keeping your IP safe at home. No need to outsource. What will happen to your company when your competitors adopt next generation automation and you don't?

    • Q: Can Analog Rails tools work with Virtuoso?

    • A: Yes, if needed. However, Analog/Digital Rails tools have been designed to replace Virtuoso + all of your surrounding infrastructure, especially for more agile design teams. However, for entrenched teams who are hesitant or don't feel they can change quickly, our tools can work seamlessly with your current tools as you transition. We read/write based on the same database (Open Access), so you can use both platforms at the same time, if necessary. We also produce extracted views to allow the user to verify from anywhere.

    • Q: Analog Rails? What's with the "Rails?"

    • A: Initially, we used "Analog on Rails", but we dropped the "on". The "Rails" represents the framework(infrastructure) to create integrated circuits accurately and quickly. First plan the roads, driveways, power lines, and utilities, then build the homes. It's all more efficient and functional when done this way: Correct by Construction and iterations are a piece of cake. Better quality, faster design cycles.

    • Q: What is the price?

    • A: Less than what you would think, considering the power of automation and integration. Does a backhoe cost more than a shovel? Analog/Digital Rails tools can increase the value of a good mixed-signal circuit designer by 5-50x. Productivity and accuracy skyrocket using AR tools. Our premium tool is roughly 3x the price that you are currently paying for basic Virtuoso-XL per seat, and includes the full premium designer package (the automatic router, differential structures, the digital place and route, optimizer, etc.) ... The basic tool costs less (and is better) than Virtuoso-XL but does not include the automatic router, differential structures, the digital place and route, nor the optimizer.

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