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Adnan Hamid, CEO of Breker
Adnan Hamid, CEO of Breker
Adnan Hamid is the founder CEO of Breker and the inventor of its core technology. Under his leadership, Breker has come to be a market leader in functional verification technologies for complex systems-on-chips (SoCs), and Portable Stimulus in particular. The Breker expertise in the automation of … More »

Users Talk Back on Portable Stimulus

March 17th, 2017 by Adnan Hamid, CEO of Breker

At the recent DVCon, I had the pleasure to moderate a panel that enabled users to talk about their experiences working with the Accellera standard’s body during the creation of the Portable Stimulus standard. I would like to thank Accellera for enabling such a panel and to Nanette Collins for organizing the panel and making sure that I had the easiest role in the ensuing discussion. I am sure that full write-ups of the panel will emerge, but I wanted to make the voice of the users heard.

First, a bit about the standards process. Standards from Accellera are created when there is sufficient demand for a new methodology or language to replace proprietary solutions formed either by EDA companies or within user flows. While users may have had no other option initially when they set out to solve a problem hampering their ability to design or verify new semiconductor devices, in-house tools often finish up being expensive to maintain over the years. Thus, they would rather see continued development and maintenance transferred to the EDA companies.

Alternatively, EDA companies and startups such as Breker, may be early developers of a solution which gains traction with users. Users do not want to invest a large amount of time and effort into something that may not be portable or supported by multiple vendors, so they would like to see the important aspects of it standardized such that their investment is protected.

There must also be sufficient demand that the major EDA companies believe it to be an economic proposition. Of course, when EDA companies see a new emerging market, they are very keen to try and be the dominant vendor and to capture the revenue stream that may come with it. That means that the competition starts during the standard’s creation process and can create a highly charged political process.

Another balance that has to be achieved is to make the standard general enough that it can grow into the future while at the same time addressing the needs of today in an efficient manner. Those two requirements can often be at odds with each other.

There are three types of companies that sit around the table when it comes time to create a standard: the large EDA companies who want to secure the market; the startups who may have been working in the area for several years and have a solution in the market already; and the users who want to ensure that their needs are going to be addressed by the proposed standard.

The Portable Stimulus standards effort, well underway within Accellera, was the motivation for the panel held Wednesday, March 1, at 8:30 a.m., an early start for such an essential new verification methodology. The audience and panelists from Analog Devices, Cavium, IBM, NVIDIA and Qualcomm, all but Cavium being members of the Portable Stimulus Working Group, were ready for an hour-long discussion on a methodology destined to upend verification as we know it.

Wolfgang Roesner, Fellow for Hardware Verification and verification tools at IBM Corp, said: “There is a clear balance between the user expertise and the subject matter experts from the EDA companies. It takes a lot of time and effort. We have to make sure the language astronauts do not go too far into outer space. We are users down here on Earth and we don’t want to deal with untethered astronauts. This is a healthy struggle.”

Dave Brownell, a Design Verification engineer for Analog Devices, explained: “This has been my first active committee participation and it has been very eye opening. I went in expecting it to be like an engineering team in my company and everyone one was in the same piece of mind and was trying to create the best possible standard. We are, but that is not how it works. It frustrates me when we spend two weeks arguing about a keyword that doesn’t mean anything.”

Sanjay Gupta, Director of Engineering for Qualcomm, was not quite so restrained. “Sometimes we have things shoved down our throats whether we need it or not. While EDA companies are the ones who have more experience, they have gone through cycles, they have created tools that have gone through production with users, and in some cases they understand the workspace better than the users, we need to make sure that from the user’s perspective, that it is applicable to all of the users.”

Mark Glasser, Principle Engineer at NVIDIA, who has participated in previous standards, reminded us that “it is really important that the user community is involved in addition to the EDA vendors. At the end of the day, we the users are the people who have to live with this all day long. We are the ones writing the tests, debugging the test, using the technology that comes out of this. It is very important that the users are involved and their input is heard and contributed to the standard.”

Asad Khan, Director of IC engineering at Cavium Networks, noted that the success of Portable Stimulus “will raise the bar of collaboration. What is done by one team member can be leveraged across all of the verification platforms.” All of those users need to have their interests represented in the standard.

Breker has often been the advocate for the user in this standardization process and will continue to do so in the future. We join with Mark in reminding you that “An important thing to note is the way the standards committees work. What comes out is what everyone voted on. The only way anything gets produced is because the majority of people voted for it. So if you want to see something different, then you have to show up and vote. It is as simple as that.”

Since 2008, Breker has been listening to the needs of the customer, and we know there is still a lot to learn from each other. We are on our fourth generation of product at this point and continue to contribute our experience to the standards committee. Together we can do this.

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