Static timing analysis

The time when a signal arrives can vary due to many reasons. The input data may vary, the circuit may perform different operations, the temperature and voltage may change, and there are manufacturing differences in the exact construction of each part. The main goal of static timing analysis is to verify that despite these possible variations, all signals will arrive neither too early nor too late, and hence proper circuit operation can be assured.

Quite often, designers will want to qualify their design across many conditions. Behavior of an electronic circuit is often dependent on various factors in its environment like temperature or local voltage variations. In such a case either STA needs to be performed for more than one such set of conditions, or STA must be prepared to work with a range of possible delays for each component, as opposed to a single value.

The use of corners in static timing analysis has several limitations. It may be overly optimistic, since it assumes perfect tracking: if one gate is fast, all gates are assumed fast, or if the voltage is low for one gate, it is also low for all others. Corners may also be overly pessimistic, for the worst case corner may seldom occur. In an IC, for example, it may not be rare to have one metal layer at the thin or thick end of its allowed range, but it would be very rare for all 10 layers to be at the same limit, since they are manufactured independently. Statistical STA, which replaces delays with distributions, and tracking with correlation, offers a more sophisticated approach to the same problem.

Many of the common problems in chip designing are related to interface timing between different components of the design. These can arise because of many factors including incomplete simulation models, lack of test cases to properly verify interface timing, requirements for synchronization, incorrect interface specifications, and lack of designer understanding of a component supplied as a 'black box'. There are specialized CAD tools designed explicitly to analyze interface timing, just as there are specific CAD tools to verify that an implementation of an interface conforms to the functional specification (using techniques such as model checking).

Statistical static timing analysis (SSTA) is a procedure that is becoming increasingly necessary to handle the complexities of process and environmental variations in integrated circuits.