Sunday, 8 September 2013

Physical Design (PD) Interview Questions - Floorplanning

    1. What is floorplaning?
   A. Floor planing is the process of placing Blocks/Macros in the chip/core area, thereby determining the routing areas between them. Floorplan determines the size of die and creates wire tracks for placement of standard cells. It creates power straps and specifies Power Ground(PG) connections. It also determines the I/O pin/pad placement information.

In simple words, Floorplaning is the process of determining the Macro placement, power grid generation and I/O placement.
   2.       How can you say a floorplan is good?
   A.      A good floorplaning should meet the following constraints
·         Minimize the total chip area
·         Make Routing phase easy (Routable)
·         Improve the performance by reducing signal delays
   3.       What are the inputs for floorplan?
   A.      The following are the inputs for Floorplan
·         Synthesized Netlist (.v, .vhdl)
·         Design Constraints  (SDC – Synopsys Design Constraints)
·         Physical Partitioning Information of the design  
·         IO Placement file (optional)
·         Macro Placement File (optional)
·         Floorplaning Control parameters
   4.       What are the outputs of floorplan?
   A.      The following are the outputs for floorplan
·         Die/Block Area
·         I/Os Placed
·         Macros placed
·         Power Grid Design
·         Power Pre-routing
·         Standard cell placement areas
   5. What are the floorplaning control parameters?
   A.      Aspect ratio, Core utilization, Row/Core Ratio, Width and Height are the floorplaning control parameters. For more information please visit Floorplaning Control Parameters

   6.       What is the Aspect Ratio?
   A.      please visit floorplaning control parameters post
    7.       What is core utilization?
   A.      please visit floorplaning control parameters post
    8.       What is total chip utilization?
   A.      please visit Floorplan control parameters
    9.       How macro placement is done in floorplaning? or What are the guidelines for macro placement?
   A.      please visit Macro Placement post
   10.   What is blockage? What are the different types of blockages? How these blockages are used in physical       design?
   A.      please visit Blockages and Halos Post
  11.   What is Halo? How it is useful?
   A.      Please visit Blockages and Halos Post
  12.   What are the fly/flight lines? How these fly/flight lines are useful during macroplacement ?
   A.      Please visit Macro Placement post
   13.       A netlist consisting of 500k gates and I have to estimate die area and floorplanning.  How do I go about it?
    A.      There are 2 methods to estimate die area
    Method 1:
      Each cell has got its area according to a specific library. Go through all your cells and multiply each cell in its corresponding area from your vendor's library. Then you can take some density factor - usually for a standard design you should have around 80% density after placement. So from this data you can estimate your required die area.
    Method 2:
     One more way of doing it is, Load the design in the implementation tool, try to change the floorplan ( x & y coordinates ) in a such a way that the Starting utilization will be around 50% -to- 60%. Again, it depends on the netlist quality & netlist completion status (like Netlist is 75%, 80% & 90% completed).
   14.       How to do floor planning for multi Vdd designs?
     A.      First we have to decide about the power domains, and add the power rings for each domain, and add           the stripes to supply the power for standard cells.
   15.       How to calculate the power ring width and power straps width and no of power straps using the         core power consumption?
    A.      Please click here for more details
   16.       What is core utilization percentage?
   A.   Core utilization percentage indicates the amount of core area used for cell placement. The number is             calculated as a ratio of the total cell area (for hard macros and standard cells or soft macro cells) to the         core area. A core utilization of 0.8, for example, means that 80% of the core area is used for cell placement   and 20 percent is available for routing.
  17. When core utilization area increased to 90%, macros got placed outside core area so does it mean that increase in core utilization area decreases width and height?
   A. If you go on with 90% then there may be a problem of congestion and routing problem. It means that you    can’t do routing within this area. Sometimes you can fit within 90% utilization but while go on for timing          optimization like upsize and adding buffers will lead to increase in size. So in this case you can’t do anything  so we need to come back to floorplan again. So to be on safer side we are fixing to 70 to 80% utilization.
  18. Why do we remove all placed standard cells, and then write out floorplan in DEF format. What's use of DEF file?
   A. DEF deals only with floorplan size. So to get the abstract of the floorplan, we are doing like this. Saving and loading this file we can get this abstract again. We don’t need to redo floorplan.

   19. Can area recovery be done by downsizing cells at path with positive slack?
    A. Yes, Area recovery can be done by downsizing cells at path with positive slack. Also deleting unwanted        buffers will also help in area recovery
  20. We can manipulate IR drop by changing number of power straps. I increased power straps which reduced IR drop, but how many power straps can I keep adding to reduce IR drop? How to calculate number of straps required. What problems can arise with increase in number of straps?
  A. We can use tools to calculate IR drop (ex:- Voltagestrom, Redhawk) if drop is high. Based on that we can add straps. But if you do projects repeatedly you will come to know that this much straps is enough. In this case you will not need tools. It’s having calculation but it’s not accurate it’s an approximate one. Number of straps will create problem in routing also it affects area. So results will be in routing congestion. To number of power straps required for a design click here.
   21.       aprPGConnect, is used for logical connection of all VDD, VSS nets of all modules. so how do we connect all VDD, VSS to global VDD /VSS nets before placement?
   A. The aprPGConnect, is used for logical connection of all VDD, VSS nets of all modules. For physical connection you can use the axgCreateStandardcellRails command to create the standard cell rails and through them connect to the rings or the straps depending upon power delivery design.
   22.   A design has memory and analog IP. How to arrange power and ground lines in floor-plan. Is it      separate digital and analog power lines? It is important to design power-ground plan on ASIC?
   A. Basically you have to make sure to keep analog and digital rails isolated from one another. All hard macro and memory blocks need to have a vdd/vss pair ring around them. Memories are always on the side or corners of your chip. Put a pair of vdd/vss ring around your design. This is usually called core power ring.
     Create a pair of vertical vdd/vss every 100 micron. This is called the power straps and on either side taps into the core power ring. put a pair of vdd/vss around every analog block and strap these analog rings (using a pair of vdd/vss) and run them to your package vdd/vss rings.
     Keep in mind that in every place a digital vdd/vss crosses analog vdd/vss straps, then you need to cut the digital vdd/vss on either side of the analog crossing to isolate the analog from digital noise. you need to dedicate pins on your chip for analog power and ground. Now we come to the most time consuming part of this, HOW THICK SHOULD YOU MAKE all these rings/straps. The answer is this is technology dependent. Look into the packaging documentations, they usually have guidelines for how to calculate the thickness of you power rings. Some even have applications that calculate all this for you and makes the cuts for analog/digital crossings.
  23. In my design, core PG ring and strips were implemented by M6/M7,and strips in vertical              orientation is M6.I use default method to connect M6 strips to stand cell connection,M1,the vias    from V12,V23,.. to V56 will block the routing of M2,..M6, it will increase congestion to some    extent. I want to know is there any good method to avoid congestion when add strips or connect       strips to standard cell connection?
   A. In Synopsys ICC, there was a command controlling the standard cell utilization under power straps. Using this you can have some sort of channels passing through stacked vias, between standard cells. This limits the detours done because of these stacked vias and allows more uniform cell placement resulting and a reduced congestion. in Soc Encounter, The command setPrerouteAsObs can be used to control standard cell density under power strips. But the 100% via connection from M1 to M6 under wide strip metal still block other nets' routing.
124.    How to control via generation when do special route for standard cell, such as how to reserve          gaps between vias for other net routing?
   A.      To remove those stack vias you need to
1.       Either returns back to floorplan step, where power straps and power/ground preroute vias are dropped. Normally vias are dropped regularly to reduce power & ground resistance; therefore maximum numbers of vias are dropped over power/ground nets. Therefore you need to check your floorplan scripts. They should be after horizontal & vertical power strap generation at M6 & M7.
2.   If the vias to be removed are at specific regions you can delete them at any step, but before global routing of course to allow global route be aware of resources/obstructions. In this case as you'll increase the power/ground resistance you should confirm this methods validity by IR Drop analysis.
3.  If IR Drop is an issue, another option would be placing standard cell placement percentage blockages (Magma has percentage blockages which is good at reducing blockages). This is the safest method as you don't need to delete those stacked M1-to-M5 vias anymore. However as you'll need to reduce placement density this will cost you some unused area.
1 25.   How to do a good floor plan and power stripes with blocks?
    A.      A good floorplan is made when:
             -Minimum space lost between macros/rows,
             -Macros placed in order to be close to their related logic,
             -IR/Electro Migration is good
             -Routing congestion as minimal.
126. How to reduce congestion?
   A.  By adding placement blockage & routing blockage during the floorplan, Congestion can be reduced. Placement blockage is to avoid the unnecessary cell placement in between macros & other critical areas. Routing blockage is used to tell the global router not to route anything on the particular area. Sometimes people used to change/modify the blockages according to their needs   at   each stage of the design.      
      Normally routing blockages should be placed before global routing to force global router to respect these blockages. Most Place and Route tools runs the first global routing at placement step and then updates it incrementally, therefore add blockages before placement. Otherwise if you want to use it after any global/detail routing is done, you may need to update global routing first (may be incrementally).
  27.   How to find the reason for congestion in particular region? How to reduce congestion?
    A.      First analyze placed congested database, and find out the hot spot which is highly congested.
           Case -1: "Congestion in Channel between macro"
           Reason:-  Not enough tracks is available in channels to route macro pins, or channel is highly congested                       because of std cell placement.
           Solution:- Need to increase channel width between Macros or please make sure that soft blockage or                           hard blockage is properly placed.
           Case -2:- "Congestion in Macro Corners"
           Reason:- Corners of macro is very prone to congestion because its having connectivity from both direction
           Solution:-
                             1. Place some HALO around each macro (5-7um).
                             2. Place a hard blockage on macro corners (corner protection (Hard Placement Blockage)                                done after standard cell rail creation otherwise it won't allow standard cell inside it.            
           Case -3: "Congestion in center of chip/congestion in module anywhere in chip"
           Reason:- Congestion in standard cell or module is based on the module local density (local density is very high 95%-100%).Also depend on module nature (highly connected). Die area less.
           Solution:-
                          1.       Module density should be even in whole chip (order os 65-85%).
                          2.       Use density screen/Partial blockage to control module density in specific areas.
                          3.       Use cell padding
                          4.       If congestion is too big in that case chip area should be increased based on the congestion                              map.
  28.   What are the reasons for the Routing congestion in a design?
   A.      Routing congestion can be due to:
            1. High standard cell density in small area.
            2. Placement of standard cells near macros.
            3. High pin density on one edge of block.
            4. Placing macros in the middle of floorplan.
            5. Bad Floorplan
            6. Placement of complex cells in a design
            7. During IO optimization tool does buffering, so lot of cells sits at core area.
   29. What actually happens in power planning? What is the main aim of power planning?
   A. The main aim of power planning is to ensure all the cells in the design are able to get sufficient power for   proper functioning of the design. During the power planning the power rings and power straps are created to distribute power equally across the design.        
      Power straps are provided for the regulated power supply throughout the block or chip. Number of straps depends on the voltage and the current of your design. You must design the power grid that will provide equal power from all sides of the block .you can also use the early rail analysis method determine the IR drop in your block and lay the sufficient power stripes.
   30. How power stripes are useful in power planning ?
   A. If the chip size is large, therefore core power rings do not able to supply power to standard cells
     because of long distance particularly the cells in the center of the chips (or will give high IR drop to
     the farthest cells), then you need power stripes. The number of stripes depend of the area of you chip.
     31. What is the minimum space between two macros? How we can find minimum space of macros?
      A. The distance between macro = (no. of pins of macros*pitch*2)/no. of available routing layers
              For example, the design has 2 macros having the pins of 50 each macro and pitch = 0.50 and available      
              metals are 8.
                Then space between macros = ((50+50)*0.5*2)/8 = 12.5
     32.   What are the steps needed to be taken care while doing Floorplaning?
            ·         Die Size Estimation
            ·         Pin/pad location
            ·         Hard macro placement
            ·         Placement and routing blockage
            ·         Location and area of the soft macros and its pin locations
            ·         Number of power pads and its location.
      Note:- For block level Die size and Pin placement comes from TOP
  
  à Fly-line analysis is required before placing the macros
  à While fixing the location of the pin or pad always consider the surrounding environment with which the           block or chip is interacting. This avoids routing congestion and also benefits in effective circuit timing
  à Provide sufficient number of power/ground pads on each side of the chip for
             effective power distribution.
  à In deciding the number of power/ground pads, Power report and IR-drop in the design should also be
             considered.
  à Orientation of these macros forms an important part of floorplaning.
  à Create standard cell placement blockage (Hard Blockage) at the corner of the macro because this part           is more sensitive to routing congestion.
  à Using the proper aspect ratio (Width /Height) of the chip

      for placing block-level pins:
  à First determine the correct layer for the pins
  à Spread out the pins to reduce congestion.
  à Avoid placing pins in corners where routing access is limited
  à Use multiple pin layers for less congestion
  à Never place cells within the perimeter of hard macros.
  à To keep from blocking access to signal pins, avoid placing cells under power straps unless      
              the straps are on metal layers higher than metal2.
  à Use density constraints or placement-blockage arrays to reduce congestion.
  à Avoid creating any blockage that increases congestion.

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