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Statistical clock skew modeling with data delay variations

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2 Author(s)
D. Harris ; Harvey Mudd Coll., Claremont, CA, USA ; S. Naffziger

Accurate clock skew budgets are important for microprocessor designers to avoid hold-time failures and to properly allocate resources when optimizing global and local paths. Many published clock skew budgets neglect voltage jitter and process variation, which are becoming dominant factors in otherwise balanced H-trees. However, worst-case process variation assumptions are severely pessimistic. This paper describes the major sources of clock skew in a microprocessor using a modified H-tree and applies the model to a second-generation Itanium-M processor family microprocessor currently under design. Monte Carlo simulation is used to develop statistical clock skew budgets for setup and hold time constraints in a four-level skew hierarchy. Voltage jitter through the phase locked loop (PLL) and clock buffers accounts for the majority of skew budgets. We show that taking into account the number of nearly critical paths between clocked elements at each level of the skew hierarchy and variations in the data delays of these paths reduces the difference between global and local skew budgets by more than a factor of two. Another insight is that data path delay variability limits the potential cycle-time benefits of active deskew circuits because the paths with the worst skew are unlikely to also be the paths with the longest data delays.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Systems  (Volume:9 ,  Issue: 6 )