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Active Documentation for VLSI Design

Silva, Mario Jorge
Technical Report Identifier: CSD-94-843
December 1994

Abstract: The main proposal of this dissertation is the integration of design and documentation in a VLSI design system using hypermedia technologies. We introduce and demonstrate the use of active documents in VLSI design. These are multimedia presentations that incorporate invocations to the tools to display and modify the design data.

The combination of design and documentation systems offers a new way of creating integrated environments for designers in general, and introduces a new paradigm for VLSI design. We show that it is possible to develop effective design methodologies that enable creating design and documentation in a single thread without intruding in the design process.

Active documentation is also used as a new paradigm for creating a common interface to heterogeneous tools and data used in system design environments. We add a new integration layer that hides heterogeneity by enabling designers to control the flow of information between independent systems through a document manipulation paradigm. We also show how information-based services available through electronic commerce could be integrated into the design environment using this paradigm. Active documents become a vehicle for transporting design data and operations between frameworks in independent organizations, enabling the creation of virtual enterprises for development of electronic systems.

We develop a realistic model for creating a system supporting the integration of design and documentation based on a new infrastructure that attempts to re-use existing framework services and design and documentation tools with minimal modification. From the data point of view, it introduces a new layer within the design database. This new layer contains descriptions of how the design data is organized and presented. It is a data structure with references to the design data, configuration and history data. It also includes mechanisms to tool invocations to present the data. The new presentation layer is organized as a set of active documents. Designers manipulate them just like the documents produced by documentation processing systems.