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VLSI Design
Volume 11 (2000), Issue 3, Pages 259-283

Tabu Search: A Meta Heuristic for Netlist Partitioning

1Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo, Waterloo N2L 3G1, Ontario, Canada
2School of Engineering, University of Guelph, Canada

Received 1 March 1999; Accepted 1 December 1999

Copyright © 2000 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The main goal of the paper is to explore the effectiveness of a new method called Tabu Search [1] on partitioning and compare it with two techniques widely used in CAD tools for circuit partitioning i.e., Sanchis Interchange method and Simulated Annealing, in terms of the running time and quality of solution. The proposed method integrates the well known iterative multi-way interchange method with Tabu Search and leads to a very powerful network partitioning heuristic. It is characterized by an ability to escape local optima which usually cause simple descent algorithms to terminate by using a short term memory of recent solutions. Moreover, Tabu Search permits backtracking to previous solutions, which explore different directions and generates better partitions.

The quality of the test results on MCNC benchmark circuits are very promising in most cases. Tabu Search yields netlist partitions that contain 20%–67% fewer cut nets and are generated 2/3 to (1/2) times faster than the best netlist partitions obtained by using an interchange method. Comparable partitions to those obtained by Simulated Annealing are obtained 5 to 20 times faster.