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Archive for November 1st, 2010

Thoughts on Assertion Based Verification (ABV)

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Verification approaches or methodologies that increase the probability of designs being correct the first time and can be easily integrated into the existing functional verification flow will find a ready market. If in addition this technology reduces both verification time and cost it will be a major winner.

Assertion Based Verification (ABV) is in that class of technology. However, ABV has not been widely adapted because of the time, cost and difficulty of deployment. The predominate language used today for coding assertions is SystemVerilog Assertion (SVA) language. The difficulty of the SystemVerilog Assertion (SVA) language plus other factors has limited the use of assertions to simple versus more useful and powerful SVAs.

According to Harry Foster (Verification methodologist in Mentor Graphics) in his paper Assertion-Based Verification: Industry Myths to Realities(Invited Tutorial…2008)

“…..it is a myth that ABV is main stream technology.” ……”what differentiates a successful team from an unsuccessful team is process and adoption of new verification methods. Unsuccessful teams tend to approach development in an ad hoc fashion, while successful teams employ a more mature level of methodology that is systematic”. ……

Implementing ABV is somewhat of a “chicken and egg” situation. The industry accepts that ABV can reduce debug time by 50% and there is no question relative to its “goodness” for increasing first time design success. However, the implementation phase today is so open-ended and difficult that only “baby steps” have been taken. Even these small steps are useful; however, the industry hasn’t come close to attaining the full benefits of ABV.

A good analogy to ABV is exercise. Everyone knows the benefits are major and any level of exercise is good. Most of us have taken “baby steps” towards exercise. However, to attain the full benefits requires, in addition to believing in the benefits, a way to reduce the open ended nature. This can be done by creating an exercise program or approach that works within the user’s life style and becomes part of their weekly routine. This typically requires help in the form of books, trainers, equipment, etc. to get started and maintain the motivation for continuing the program and reap the benefits.

Clearly the opportunity exists to provide help for implementing ABV. The methodologies are already in place. We at Zocalo believe that automation plus metrics that takes away or reduces the open ended nature of the technology and works within the users flow will motivate projects to start and continue using ABV, thereby reaping the full benefits of implementation.

To access a (no registration required and free) Assertions white paper, please visit http://www.zocalo-tech.com/files/designer_assertions.pdf.

A version of this article was previously published earlier this month at http://www.electronicscomponentsworld.com/articleView~idArticle~73104_9374540205102010.html.

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