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Archive for May 9th, 2011

Livin’ on a Prayer

Monday, May 9th, 2011

I was driving back from a meeting one day last week with the car radio playing in the background, mulling over the development environment a senior hardware designer had just described.  As you might expect, he depicted a scenario of tightened project cycles, reduced budgets and resources, added features, frustration and loads of late nights and aggravation.  And, of course, bugs, bugs and more bugs in tens of millions of gates.

Then, he said complexity is rising due to the increased use of embedded software.  According to his team’s calculations, the software portion of a system on chip (SoC) is growing at a rate of 140 percent per year, while hardware is expanding about 40 percent year to year.

With all the rolling around in my mind, I barely registered the radio announcer’s voice, but snapped to attention as Bon Jovi began singing:

Whoa, we’re half way there

Whoa oh, livin’ on a prayer

… we’ll make it I swear

Whoa oh, livin’ on a prayer

Whoa, is right!  In an earlier career, Jon Bon Jovi must have been a hardware designer or a verification engineer.  Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine him composing a song about livin’ on a prayer for anything but SoC design.

Verifying hardware design?  An impossible task that, at times, seems to need some celestial intervention or as Bon Jovi intones, prayer.  That’s what it may seem like for the hardware designer I met last week or verification engineer whose job it is to debug the design.

Functional verification is a way to thoroughly debug a design before silicon availability, though exhaustive functional verification using a software simulator is not a viable solution any longer because of its unsatisfactory performance.  Moreover, simulation farms do not address large designs since they require long sequences of tests that consume billions of cycles and cannot be parallelized.

Fortunately, prayers do get answered.  For example, EVE pioneered an approach to hardware-assisted verification that combines traditional emulation and rapid prototyping systems into a single-unified environment for ASIC and SoC debugging and embedded software validation.  And, Real Intent produces automatic verification solutions using innovative formal techniques in an easy to use methodology.

Hardware-based verification platforms are more than just another emulation product because they can be used by hardware designers to verify and debug SoC hardware designs, and embedded software developers to validate SoC embedded software.  The hardware and the embedded software can be debugged concurrently, giving engineering teams two concurrent views of a design, the inner workings of the SoC hardware and the whole embedded software code.  An engineering team can trace and change any of them and monitor the effects.  A hardware bug that effects the embedded software code execution can be traced starting from the embedded software and vice versa.

While Bon Jovi’s lyrics may seem apropos, don’t keep livin’ only on a prayer!  EVE and Real Intent can help.  They will be at the 48th Design Automation Conference next month in San Diego demonstrating their solutions.  Stop by EVE in Booth #2836 and Real Intent in Booth #2131 to learn more.


Special thanks to Bon Jovi.  Livin’ on a Prayer is from the album Slippery when Wet and was released as a single in 1986.

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