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Archive for January, 2010

Ascent Lint Steps up to Next Generation Challenges

Monday, January 25th, 2010

The key to greater design productivity is to detect bugs as early as possible and as close to their source as possible. Lint is the first and critical component of the early-verification tool chain. It is easy to use and finds nontrivial bugs that can save your bacon later on. Real Intent has been a pioneer in developing technologies for early verification and in promoting the paradigm.  Earlier this week, in response to customer demand, we announced the release of Ascent Lint 1.2, the next generation lint tool that performs smart syntax and semantic lint checks for complex designs.  While there is a variety of lint and RTL code analysis tools available, Real Intent has stepped up to introduce a distinctive lint tool to address the serious deficiencies in the existing lint offerings.

First a little bit of history: Real Intent tools have always used lint technology to check the design prior to formal verification, and issued violation messages about the design to the user in a log file.  Over the years, upon customer requests, Real Intent exposed more information in a debug-able report file.  Sure enough, it was encouraging to hear from our customers that the Real Intent tool front-end was able to catch crucial issues which some of the lint tools in the market did not. Real Intent has always maintained close relationships with its customers. Ascent Lint 1.2 is a product of these relationships. 

Customer feedback indicates that as design complexity has increased, popular lint tools in use today are starting to show signs of severe performance degradation and noise.  The lint reports generated by some tools have become cumbersome due to the large number of irrelevant messages generated by them.  While some lint tools offer the option of custom rules creation by reusing source code from prepackaged rules, common experience is that the rule language is pretty inscrutable and rules are complex to implement.  Also, if implemented in TCL, these custom rules can run very slowly.

Real Intent’s Ascent Lint speeds up the development of complex system-on-chip (SOC) designs by offering the ability to select from a comprehensive set of smart rules based on industry guidelines.  These rules are implemented in an extremely fast engine with runtimes as fast as about a minute for checking 230 of our most comprehensive  rules on a million gate design. This data point was obtained at a customer site and turned out to be a real eye opener for the customer deeply frustrated with the performance of their existing lint tools. Ascent Lint offers low noise, yet comprehensive reporting which is debug-able through a GUI with cross-probing capability to the design source.  Ascent Lint enables customization of company-specific guidelines by graphically configuring existing rules simply by choosing or entering values in a box. We are committed to continue to provide smart industry-standard and customized rules that detect complex design and coding bugs.

As we see other lint offerings falling off a cliff in the face of rich HDLs and design complexity, we believe that Ascent Lint will be the next generation technology that saves the day.

See a couple of other blogs on Ascent Lint:

Google and Real Intent, 1st Degree LinkedIn

Friday, January 15th, 2010

In the special issue of IEEE Spectrum, “Winners & Losers 2010, the year’s best and worst technology”, Google Chrome was chosen as the winner in the computing category. The opening paragraph of Sally Adee’s article, “Chrome the Conqueror, Google’s new online operating system could be the Windows killer”, is very interesting:

Is GOOGLE GOD? There is a test for that: omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Omnipresence? Check. There is Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Earth, Google Mars, Google Apps (the word-processing, spread-sheeting service). They’re all everywhere, all the time.

Indeed Google is everywhere today. It is hard to imagine that it was only August 1998 when Andy Bechtolsheim wrote a check of $100,000 on the spot for Google founders Larry and Sergey.  

Real Intent and Google are linked together in two ways: through one special connection, and another of a more common nature.

The special connection is that both Google and Real Intent shared the same legendary angel investor in Andy Bechtolsheim. Andy is a true visionary – he saw the innovative ideas behind both companies. Needless to say, not only Andy, but we all have benefited from Google’s achievements.  Real Intent, though less well-known than Google, has also made its marks and withstood numerous economic challenges in the last 10 years. Real Intent pioneered the concept of intent-driven verification, a term often co-opted by competitors in their data sheets and articles. Like Google, Real Intent has invested in the development of numerous very sophisticated underlying technologies to make the ultimate user experience simple, intuitive and very efficient. Throughout the years, Andy has been an unwavering support for Real Intent because he believes in the productivity-driven automatic formal technology employed in Real Intent’s verification solutions and the high efficiency of our team’s operations. Not many companies share this special connection with Google.

The common connection is that like millions of others, we are Google users. The marketing team at Real Intent makes extensive use of many of Google’s applications – Google doc, Google Calendar, Goosync, and Google Analytics to just name a few.

Google Analytics has been a great tool for our marketing team to measure how well we are doing in the marketplace. We track the number and geographical regions of visitors to our website ( and see where the interest comes from.  For example, we learned that in 2009, new visits to Real Intent website came from 34 countries/territories. The top ten are: United States, Japan, India, Israel, Germany, United Kingdom, France, China, Taiwan and Spain. We also know how the visitors found us (not surprisingly, most through Google search), how long they stayed at our site, and what pages they visited. The collected data helps us determine if we are hitting the mark with our marketing efforts, to see what is interesting to people in the design industry, and to make sure we provide the right information for our customers.

You can say that Real Intent is a user of Google tools like the rest of the world, but also has a very special brotherly connection.

Verification Challenges Require Surgical Precision

Monday, January 11th, 2010

It has been interesting to note that, per the Q3 2009 EDAC market survey, design companies continued to buy functional verification tools even through the recent downturn. The prognosis is that verification spending will continue to rise. While this is good news for EDA companies, it is also an indicator of the industry’s inability to contain the verification problem as design complexity continues to rise in terms of the number of transistors and the system-level functionality on a chip.

Newer chips have additional failure modes that were not issues before.  For example, approximately 85% of the designs today contain more than one clock domain. This is necessitated by a combination of clock-skew considerations as well as the diverse clocking requirements of system-level components on a chip. As a result, chip failures arising from improperly designed clock-domain crossings have become increasingly common. Similarly, low-power design techniques like clock gating and Vdd gating are also being used much more widely now, creating new failure modes that did not exist in previous chip generations.

Unfortunately for the design industry, there is no one-stop solution to the verification problem any more. While simulation has served the industry reasonably well thus far, its viability as the mainstay of the verification flow is being marginalized by the sheer complexity of checking for the newer failure modes. For example, using simulation to check clock domain crossings is not very effective given that these failures arise as a result of corner case confluences of timing and functionality.

We believe what is required is that more attention be focused on identifying important productivity sinks to provide effective solutions targeting these specific, isolated and self-contained verification problems. Usually, the design principles involved are well understood and hence the characteristics of the specific error modes can be clearly identified.  Specialized and customized technologies that are based on synergetic integration of structural and formal techniques are the best solutions for detecting errors for these classes of issues.  A well known success story of applying specialized technology to solve a narrow problem has been the wide and easy adoption of equivalency checking between RTL and Gate representations.  Similarly, we believe that specialized technologies such as clock-domain crossing verification, low-power verification, X-behavior verification etc will also be widely embraced by the design community in the near term, making these tools an integral part of the design and verification flow.

The availability of these razor-sharp technologies targeting specific failure modes allows verification to be approached in a surgical manner with consequent improvements in design quality, productivity and return on investment. After all, even the best surgeon needs the right tools to be effective!

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