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Bug Tracking Benefits Go Far Beyond Software Development

We've read and heard about how important bug tracking is, for software development, but do you know that it plays a crucial role in SoC and ASIC projects too? Like software, IC development is a complicated process that involves many developers across multiple teams that are often geographically separated. Tools and processes need to be in place to track tasks, dependencies, and issues. And like software, the cost of fixing a bug after an IC has been fabricated and shipped to customers is significantly higher than that of a pre-silicon fix. Therefore, physical and logical design bugs must not find their way into the silicon.

Applying Issue Tracking to ASIC Projects
Issue tracking tools can help with this. Along with using it during the verification phases of IC development, issue tracking should be implemented in the physical design phase to track cross-team dependencies so that they don't slip through the cracks causing post-silicon defects.

Benefits of Issue Tracking in Silicon Projects
For instance, a Phase Locked Loop (PLL) may be chosen by the design team requiring dedicated ground pins to protect against noise. This requires a layout engineer to implement the required ground connections. The work of the layout engineer doesn't begin until later in the development process. By using issue tracking tools to assign him/her tasks, progress can be tracked and the risk of fabricating an IC with an improperly grounded PLL is eliminated.

The benefits of issue tracking go far beyond conventional bug logging and reporting. Key metrics can also be gathered, that helps track the status of a project. The software industry has been using these kinds of metrics for years, but they equally apply well to IC design. For example, the number of open critical defects discovered per unit time, which was high during the initial stages of verification, starts to decline as bugs are fixed and tests become more comprehensive. These metrics provide insight into the status of the project and can be used to decide when to advance to the next stage of the plan or to allocate resources. Most of the issue tracking tools have comprehensive reporting systems providing detailed graphs and charts that allow users to conveniently track rate metrics, defect count, or any other metric of interest.

Issue Tracking has Value
Issue tracking is an important part of the IC development flow for all the reasons discussed above. It is used across all phases of the project, including physical design, and is one of the key drivers in achieving first-time success. Logging and tracking tasks, issues, and dependencies can help in:
Communicating the status of issues to all project stakeholders
Ensuring that all critical issues addressed before tape out
Extracting useful metrics about the status of the project

Conclusion
Issue tracking is not just limited to software development projects but highly valuable for semiconductor engineering as well. The common characteristic between the two is that there are many moving parts in each project type. Software engineering has adopted issue tracking tools to keep every detail in check. Semiconductor teams can benefit from the same and realize a much larger benefit by reducing the risk of costly issues that make their way into silicon and the end-product.

About The Author: 

As a Senior Marketing Consultant at Kualitatem, Ray Parker loves to write tech-related news, articles, specifically quality assurance and information security. Apart from his techie appearance, he enjoys soccer, reading mysteries, and spending long hours working over at the New York office.

 

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