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 The Breker Trekker

Archive for January, 2015

The Evolution of DesignCon and Why Breker Isn’t There

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

One of the most popular posts in the history of The Breker Trekker was one discussing which conferences were most useful for verification engineers. I mentioned that Breker exhibited at the annual Design and Verification Conference (DVCon) in San Jose, and we’ve since published several popular posts about that show. It remains the most important event for us, our customers, and the functional verification industry in general. We will be there again in March, and will provide more information in an upcoming post.

I also mentioned the DesignCon show, held annually in Santa Clara, but did not list it among those that we attend. I always go and walk the floor for an hour or two to say hello to old friends and to see what’s new. However, Breker does not exhibit at this show and is highly unlikely to do so unless there are significant changes in its focus and attendance. This is not a criticism of the show, just an observation. Since DesignCon is happening this week, I thought that it might be fun to review its history and how it has changed.

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What to Run on Day One in the Bring-Up Lab

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Last week’s blog post raised the question of what you should run when you first map your system-on-chip (SoC) design into an emulation platform. We pointed out that trying to boot an operating system and applications immediately was a challenge because these are complex pieces of production software not designed to find lingering hardware design errors or to debug such errors easily even if detected. On many projects, the production software isn’t even available early enough to be used for design verification.

We strongly recommended running the multi-threaded, multi-processor, self-verifying C test cases generated by our Trek family of products. These “bare metal” test cases run on your SoC’s embedded processors at every stage of the project. TreSoC-Si specifically generates test cases tuned for emulation and FPGA prototype platforms. But what should you run when your fabricated chip first arrives back from the foundry? The answer is the same. TrekSoC-Si also generates test cases for silicon, ideal for use in your bring-up lab. Let’s explore this idea a bit more.

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What to Run on Day One of Emulation

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Many of you are probably familiar with Lauro Rizzatti, who has written countless articles on the value of emulation for verifying system-on-chip (SoC) designs and been an occasional guest blogger here on The Breker Trekker. Lauro recently published an article in Electronic Engineering Times that really caught our attention. We could not possibly agree more with the title: “A Great Match: SoC Verification & Hardware Emulation” and, as we read through the article, were very pleased with the points he made.

Emulation involves mapping the RTL chip design into a platform that runs much like an actual chip, albeit considerably more slowly. The industry is not always consistent on its terminology, but generally if the platform is connected to a software simulation it’s being used as a simulation accelerator. In this case, the design’s inputs and outputs are connected to the simulation testbench much as they would be when running software simulation of the RTL. In emulation, there’s no simulator or testbench, and so the question becomes what to run on the design.

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Blast from the Past: Verification in Silicon

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Late last year, we published a series of blog posts discussing how the world of large chip designs is moving toward multi-processor, cache-coherent SoCs. This trend is due to several sub-trends, including the addition of one or more processors, the growth in number of processors, the use of shared memory, and the addition of caches to improve memory performance. The result of this movement is clear: large chips are becoming more difficult to verify than ever.

Verification teams face challenges at every turn. It’s hard to run a complete SoC-level model in simulation, especially if the team wants to boot an operating system and run production applications. This may be feasible in emulation or FPGA prototyping platforms, but these cost a lot of money. What we’re starting to see is the truly stunning trend that some teams are taping out SoCs without ever having run the entire design together. This means that full-chip verification and debug isn’t happening until first silicon is in the lab. Let’s explore why this is happening.

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