Risks Analysis and Mitigation Technique in EDA Sector: VLSI Supply Chain

Risks Analysis and Mitigation Technique in EDA Sector: VLSI Supply Chain

Lokesh Pawar (Chandigarh University, India), Rohit Kumar (Chandigarh University, India) and Anurag Sharma (Chandigarh University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6029-6.ch016


This chapter describes how as the semiconductor industry is growing at a streaming pace, it comprises a number of global business entities. The industry includes the designing of the VLSI chips, manufacturing of those chips, system integration and the distribution of the VLSI chip. With this the industry has raised the bar among its vendors to provide best possible IC solutions and a highly secure product. The authors thus present this chapter in calculating views on risk involved in this area which are prone to security risks and at the same time focuses on the VLSI supply chain with references to a recent survey that illustrates various ways to handle those risks. In the absence of an effective security mechanism, a varlet here viz. an intellectual property (IP)provider or an integrated circuit design industry, an EDA company, a foundry lab, a distributor of chips or a system integrator, may easily lead to design IP theft or tampering with a designed IC. Since these risks compromise the security system for the VLSI chips, this leads to have a sound security system for an apt risk management.
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In an attempt and designer’s desire to design lightning fast system/network on chips within minimum possible time with best possible constraints, the digital design flow is going towards being fully automated and hence the EDA companies growing in abundance in the market. The need for automation arises because of ample of steps required for a semi/full-custom digital design. Consequently, there also arises possibility of IC theft or IC tamper by an adversary. So there is always a risk involved. To understand those possibilities, we need to generalize some of the most common CAD (Computer aided) design tools that are available in Semiconductor market (Liu B. et al., 2016).

Electronic Design Automation (EDA) Tools

Design Capture Tools

This is the first and most important category of EDA tools since it deals with the designer’s specifications. By capturing here means abstracting and encapsulating a circuit description and preparing the same for further simulations as per SAE (simulation and analysis environment). Collectively, the work at this entry level can be shown by Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Operations performed by Design capture tools


Simulation Tools

The next set of tools that deal with Front-end IC design. Again these are further classified on the basis of operations performed. One type is for the functional verification of the design, and second one verifying the timing specifications, viz. STA tools, Power analyzers etc. The former one verifies the logic behavior of the IC design corresponding to entry level specification (i.e. in reference to gate level net-list). One must take care to characterize all the design primitives during formal simulation. Later tools make sure that timing constraints viz. set-up and hold time are met accordingly in proper synchronized way (Mead C. et al, 2012).

The timing simulation is performed on multiple level of abstraction so definitely it is required to be done in a careful and efficient manner. The information thus retrieved by these tools is then back-annotated for final logic simulations after the floor planning and layout of the design.

Layout Tools

These are the tool that performs the design tasks just before the actual implementation of the design for verifying inter-connects, technology parameters, floor plan, clock and data paths etc. They allows transforming the logic implementation to a physical design laying a path towards ASIC (Application specific IC) design (Zimmermann, R. et al., 1999). Now here comes the categorization based upon customization process, viz. semi and full custom design. In later the customization deals from designing a cell level ASIC representation and then combing those to form sub-components and finally having the complete design. The former one requires getting Intellectual properties from different EDA vendors and hence combining those components and verifying as a design. The physical design tools always works in conjunction with the floor planning tools showing the verified cells to go on an ASIC die (Taur, Y. et al., 2013).

Synthesis and Optimization Tools

The synthesis tools will now take on functionality descriptions from HDL tools and gate level net-lists and then mapping them with the placement and routing (layout) tools. The mapping is done targeting a specific library in a technology specific manner to obtain area, power and delay optimization.

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