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 Decoding Formal

Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Formal Ensures Tight Working Relationships

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Gabe Moretti of Chip Design used several points from Jin’s blog post below, in his recent article titled, “Design and Verification Need a Closer Relationship.” The article can be found at: http://bit.ly/1fGyXW2

Today, verification engineers have a whole arsenal in their tool kit in order to combat hidden bugs in the design. Different verification techniques render different working relationship with the designers.

Formal verification is a white-box verification technique, which means formal engineers need to have a good understanding about the internals of the design in order to do effective formal verification. Therefore, formal engineers and RTL designers naturally have a much tighter working relationship than other disciplines.

First, a sound verification methodology should allow equal contribution from all effective techniques, which includes leveraging the exhaustiveness of formal to sign-off on design blocks that are harder to verify with simulation. The block partition between formal and simulation should be clean to simplify the effort on both ends. To achieve that, formal engineers should participate in the architectural planning and exploration stage of design development in order to help influence decisions regarding design partition and block interface. A well-partitioned design with a clean interface will make the decision on where to apply formal, as well as the actual formal verification tasks, much easier.

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Oski on the Bay in San Francisco

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

EDA’s verification market segment is not the only place where something’s named for the Cal (University of California, Berkeley) mascot Oski. A Blue and Gold Fleet boat named Oski sails out of Pier 39 in San Francisco and takes visitors around the Bay and Alcatraz.

When I saw the Oski pulling away from the pier, I couldn’t help but draw an analogy between Oski Technology’s mission and the choppy waters the boat was heading into on that sunny day. Sunny days and choppy waters are something verification engineers can face on a daily basis. Verification tasks are so challenging in today’s for system-on-chip (SoC) designs that verification alone takes more than 60% of the project cycle. What’s more, simulation alone for SoC designs will leave large holes for bugs to sneak through, all the way to silicon. The challenge of verification actually is more daunting than the choppy waters of San Francisco Bay.
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Unbroken, 73 Bugs Captured!

Friday, June 19th, 2015

The story of Louis Zamperini, as told by Laura Hillenbrand in “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption”, is a great testimony of the strength of human spirit. Going through unimaginable catastrophes, including drifting 47 days on the open sea with leaping sharks, thirst, starvation, and machine gun attack from a bomber plane, as well as enduring 3 years under severe and brutal conditions as a POW in Japan, Zamperini emerged unbroken with grace, humanity and love.

This is such an inspiring story that when I thought about writing about Oski DAC 2015 “Break the Testbench” Challenge results, the word “unbroken” came to mind. While this is no comparison in its scale to the story of Zamperini, the word “unbroken” succinctly summarizes the challenge result.

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Decoding Formal @ DAC – Join Oski for Four Days of Formal Fun

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

Oski Decoding Formal Events are usually hosted at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and have attracted lots of formal enthusiasts in the bay area. Deep formal talks from Oski, lectures given by formal experts from different companies, good networking, cool gifts and museum tours have become the signature of these events that formal engineers look forward to, every quarter.

To reach out to formal enthusiasts around the world and create a bigger event than usual, the 2015 Q2 Decoding Formal event will be hosted at DAC. Our theme is proving completeness of End-to-End Formal for Sign-off.

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Preparing for Another Challenge at DAC: Break the Testbench!

Monday, May 18th, 2015

You may remember the Oski Technology Live Verification Challenge in 2012, where during the 72 hours of DAC, Oski verification engineer Chirag Agarwal formally verified a well-simulated design from NVIDIA, sight unseen, live and on camera, and found 4 corner case bugs. The challenge results exceeded everyone’s expectations, and inspired other companies to do more with formal in their verification flow. See the Live Oski Verification Challenge, and a blog recap and six-minute video, here.
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The Impact of Great Teachers

Friday, May 1st, 2015

My daughter has been learning violin for the last 5 years with a wonderful Suzuki teacher. She emphasizes proper posture, beautiful tone and a good work ethic. This has built a solid foundation for my daughter to venture into learning other instruments. Last fall my daughter started playing flute for her school band, and viola at Young String Ensemble, the youngest division of Portland Youth Philharmonic, founded in 1929 as the first youth orchestra in the United States.

To help her prepare for the upcoming audition for the more advanced Portland Youth Conservatory Orchestra, we decided she would take some viola lessons with the Oregon Symphony Principal Violist. We were totally blown away after just one lesson.

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“Shift Left” with Formal Technology

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

“Shift Left” has become a hot phrase after Aart’s keynote speech at DVCon2015 where he talked about how shifting left in schedule resulted from 10x productivity gain in design, IP, verification and software can spur on 100x opportunities in applications across all fields. He suggested many of these technological advances have the potential of changing what mankind is all about.

Static and formal techniques were mentioned as one of the mechanisms that increase productivity and contribute to shift left in the verification schedule. There are several reasons why formal technology is a key driver for the left shift.

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The Perils of Aiming Low: How Management Expectations Can Shape Formal Engineers’ Learning and Performance

Monday, March 16th, 2015

I recently read a blog written by Dr. Noa Kageyama, performance psychologist and Juilliard alumnus and faculty member, titled “The Perils of Aiming Low: How Our Expectations Can Shape Our Students’ Learning & Performance.”

Based on research findings from schools and sports, Dr. Kageyama concluded that high expectations from teachers and coaches correlate positively with an individual’s learning and growth, helping improve confidence and making the most of one’s ability.

The blog resonates with me because I am a parent, always seeking ways to help my daughters reach their maximum potential. But It also reminds me of a common practice I see in the industry regarding formal verification adoption.

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Making the Case to Executives for Formal Verification

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Last year, after my presentation to a customer in Asia, the verification manager said, “You should give this talk to our senior executives, so they understand the benefits of formal.”

It was said in a lighthearted manner, but in reality it rang true. Design and verification engineers and their managers understand the value of formal.  However in order to request funding to promote formal adoption, they still need to make a case to senior executives as to the value of formal. They need compelling arguments, speaking at a strategic level as to why it is critically important and urgent for the company to adopt formal. The list of concerns for senior executives, is long:

  1. Are we staying ahead of competition?
  2. Do our customers have any issues with our products?
  3. Can we deliver our products on schedule and with profit margin?

Funding will become easier, if they understand how formal can address their primary concerns.

To stay ahead of competition not only requires innovative ideas, but also a sharpened toolkit. Semiconductor companies large and small are actively investing in formal adoption so that they have the best verification flow with the most advanced tools and methodologies. There aren’t many formal experts who can do End-to-End formal in the industry. Many companies are paying top dollar to attract formal verification engineers or outsource formal verification tasks for critical projects to the Oski Technology. So if your company doesn’t use formal verification, then this is an easy case to make, in order to catch up with competition.

A post-silicon bug is a nightmare to senior executives. It signifies poor quality, delayed schedule and wasted money. No matter how complex the bug might be at the system level, it resides in one of the design blocks and could have been caught earlier. Using End-to-End formal to achieve sign-off is a sure way to catch corner case bugs early in the flow so as to minimize, or even avoid, post-silicon bugs. So if senior executives are concerned about customer issues with products, the best solution is to incorporate formal in the early stage, for sign-off.

Time is money. Delayed project schedule means extra engineering time and lost potential market opportunity. Formal can reduce project schedule as in the Oski Cisco case study, published at DAC 2011. At the very least with formal, once a property is proven, verification is done. Unlike simulation where reaching the last 20% of coverage closure could take 80% of the time, so there is never a real sense of being complete as it is impossible to simulate all input vectors.

So if adding formal to the flow helps you keep up or stay ahead of competition, avoid post silicon bugs and keep your project schedule in check, it has a big impact for the company.  This should make a strong case to senior execs that formal is something they should hear about – and sponsor – today.

Rob Kurshan, early pioneer and expert in formal verification, speculates here on the future of formal verification in a video interview at a past meeting for the Decoding Formal Club, a forum hosted by Oski Technology for formal enthusiasts, pioneers, leaders and colleagues who work to promote the sharing of ideas and the advancement of formal technology. On February 9 Synopsys is sponsoring the next Decoding Formal Club Meeting about constraints, liveness vs. safety, formal at ARM (and a Klein bottle). Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Sign up here.

New Year’s Resolution – Treading Deep into Formal

Friday, January 16th, 2015

According to statistics published in 2014 by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45% Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions. And people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t.

The largest resolution category –– 47%, is related to self-improvement and education. This is me, trying to squeeze time in my busy schedule to work out and keep my brain sharp by learning new things. This year, our family joined a new health club where I can watch TED  Talks as I walk, and I am embarking on a learning journey with my sixth grader on Machine Learning & Robot Design. It has been fun!

As the Director of Marketing at Oski Technology, my New Year’s Resolution for Oski is simple –– Treading Deep into Formal. In the past 18 months, we successfully hosted five Decoding Formal Club events where we, and our invited guests, shared some of the deepest knowledge and practical experiences about formal that cannot be found elsewhere.

We have covered many deep formal topics such as Abstraction ModelsBound AnalysisEnd-to-End Checkers, and Formal Test Planning, all with the goal to achieve Formal Sign-off. Invited guests from industry formal leaders, such as NVIDIA and Broadcom, shared their experiences deploying formal. With deep formal talks, opportunities for formal networking, good food and cool gifts, Decoding Formal Club has become a magnet that attracts formal enthusiasts. It is where deep formal learning happens.

Carrying on the theme of Treading Deep into Formal into 2015, our first Decoding Formal Club meeting will be held Monday, February 9, from 11:30 a.m. until 4:15 p.m. at our usual location, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

We have an agenda packed with Deep Formal Talks and lots of fun! It will include talks by:

  • Vigyan Singhal, chief executive officer of Oski Technology, who will share another important topic in Formal Sign-off –– constraint management.
  • NVIDIA Principal Engineer Jon Michelson, co-author of “The Art of Verification with SystemVerilog Assertions” and “The Art of Verification with Vera,” who will present “A Practical Viewpoint on Liveness versus Safety.”
  • Ross Weber, Staff Design Engineer at ARM and author of the best paper award at the Jasper User Group 2014, who will discuss formal achievements at ARM.

While attendees tread deeply into the formal space, we will bring them back with a special invited guest Cliff Stoll. His TED Talk, “The Call to Learn” inspired us to offer one of his Acme Klein Bottles as a giveaway.  And with the Chinese New Year coming February 19, attendees will be in for Chinese flair and other surprises.

The event space can hold only 40 people, and we intentionally keep the event small to offer the best learning and networking experience. Our goal is to make it the best four hours of an attendee’s work week.

Come and join us as we Tread Deep into Formal in 2015. It will be exciting!

Visit the Decoding Formal registration page, here.

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