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What Does “Portable Stimulus” Really Mean?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

We’ve discussed at some length in past blog posts the recent effort by Accellera to standardize “portable stimulus” in its Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG). As a reminder, this group has been chartered by Accellera to “develop the electronic industry’s first standard for portable test and stimulus. When completed and adopted, this standard will enable a single specification that will be portable from IP to full system and across multiple target implementations.” At trade shows and customer meetings, we’re often asked to explain more about what the concept of portable stimulus means and how it relates to our products. We’ve also been asked for details on the workings of the PSWG and what is likely to happen in terms of a possible standard.

Let us be clear that neither this post nor future posts will reveal the inner workings of the PSWG or share non-public information. We believe strongly that standards bodies must do their jobs with a minimum of distraction. Members must be able to propose and discuss ideas that might seem crazy to those not actually doing the work and without the proper context. There are also IP rights and patent implications to some portions of the standardization process. So this won’t be a “kiss and tell” opportunity. If you want to know what’s happening on the standard right now, we invite your company to join Accellera and contribute a member of two to the PSWG. But for this post, we will take this opportunity to provide some background on the portable stimulus arena and share what we think is important.


DAC, DVClub, DVClub Europe, DVCon, DVCon Europe, DVCon India: Verification is Everywhere

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Perhaps the biggest cliche in EDA is that functional verification consumes 70% of a chip project’s resources and is growing. Variations on this statistic have been around for at least ten years, probably more. It’s quoted almost as much as Moore’s Law, which incidentally turned 50 this year. Although not as old, the observation that verification dominates SoC development is almost universally accepted. Some may argue the exact percentage, but the spirit remains the same. As a consequence of this state, verification content is turning up everywhere. In today’s post, I’d like to summarize some recent and upcoming events of interest, plus remind you of some related topics covered in previous posts.

My first updates involves DVClub, the informal gathering of verification professionals held in multiple locations around the world. Yesterday was DVClub Silicon Valley, held as usual at Dave & Buster’s mega-arcade in Milpitas. Olig Petlin presented “Formal property verification at AMD: Theory and Practice” to a good-sized crowd. The talk was a nice, comprehensive overview of formal analysis and how it is typically deployed, but I would have liked to hear more specifics about AMD uses it on their projects. Paradigm Works recently assumed management of DVClub in the USA and is doing an excellent job of reinvigorating the franchise with more events in more locations. Boston on May 13 and Austin on June 3 are next on the calendar.


The Ever-Changing EDA Landscape

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

In last week’s post on The Breker Trekker blog, we surveyed the semiconductor market for the past 15 years or so from the standpoint of revenue leadership. Wikipedia provides a set of  tables showing the top 20 semiconductor vendors for each year. We compiled this data into a single table, and found that this revealed some clear trends of how the industry has evolved during this period. The many spin-offs, mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies resulted in constant changes in the lower ranks of the top 20, and even some shuffling among the top players. This topic proved to be of great interest to our readers, with this week-old post surpassing many popular older posts.

Last week we also contrasted the semiconductor market with the EDA market, in which the top three revenue leaders have been the same for more than 20 years. Unlike semiconductors, there are almost no other EDA companies beyond the top three that were around 15-20 years ago and still exist today. We have had many spin-offs, mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies in our industry as well. Like semiconductors, we have had many changes in rankings beyond the very top tier, so we thought that we would try this week to create a similar chart and perform a similar analysis for EDA. However, this has not proven possible. We’d like to explain why and offer some more thoughts on the EDA market and how it differs from semiconductors.


The Ever-Changing Semiconductor Landscape

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

By some measures, the EDA market is a dynamic one. Many of our technological advances have come from startups and small companies, a list that gets refreshed as new market needs arise and as former independents get acquired or merge. The technology changes constantly to meet the needs of the semiconductor suppliers and system houses that are our customers. However, when it comes to market leadership EDA is incredibly static. The same three big companies have been at the top for more than 20 years now, we believe ever since Cadence swallowed Valid in 1991 and Synopsys moved into the third spot. Of course there has been some shuffling among Cadence, Synopsys, and Mentor, but that has happened only a few times.

This is in sharp contrast to the semiconductor business. Although Intel and Samsung have been at the top for more than ten years, several different companies have been number three and four during this period, with many shuffles along the way. There has been constant churn below the top slots, with several dramatic success stories for new vendors emerging during this same period. Since semiconductor companies are a main source of sales for EDA, we pay a lot of attention to the market and how it evolves. In this post we show one noteworthy market assessment and discuss some of the reasons for the changes and some of the implications for the industry as a whole.


A First Look at the Program for the 52nd DAC

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Over the nearly two years we’ve been blogging on The Breker Trekker, some of the most popular posts have been our previews of, and reports from, the annual Design Automation Conference (DAC). The show remains a must-attend event for all EDA vendors and users. One of the key ingredients for its success it that it is really two events in one: a strong technical conference with peer-reviewed papers and a formal Proceedings, plus a busy exhibition floor with vendor booths and suites for prospecting, demos, and update meetings with current customers.

For me personally, it’s almost impossible to imagine not going to DAC. I’ve attended every show since 1988 for at least one of its days, and in many cases for the entire run. DAC stories might be a fun topic for a future post but today I’m going to look ahead rather than back. The technical program for the 52nd DAC was unveiled a few days ago and I’ve been scrolling through the pages on the Web site to see who’s speaking and what topics are hot. This post offers some initial thoughts on sessions likely to be of interest to you, our readers, and a few predictions on what will emerge as the major themes for 2015.


Our Case Study of Verdi Integration from SNUG

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

As we discussed in last week’s post, the past two days we were busy with activities at SNUG Silicon Valley, the annual focus for all things Synopsys. On Monday we exhibited in the Designer Community Expo, which drew programmers, architects, and verification engineers in addition to hardware designers. We have always been impressed by the verification teams we meet at SNUG. They’re all working on hard projects and open to new ideas that will help them find more bugs more quickly.

We also had the pleasure of speaking for the first time in the SNUG technical program, with a talk on “Integration of Portable Test Cases and System-Level Coverage with Verdi HW SW Debug Using VC Apps” in the VC Apps Developer Forum session yesterday. We had a nice response from the 65 or so attendees and were delighted with their interest. Since the talks in this session do not have corresponding papers in the SNUG Proceedings, we’d like to use today’s post to fill in the technical details.


Please Join Us at SNUG Silicon Valley Next Week

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Following a very successful DVCon in San Jose two weeks ago, next week we travel a few miles up the road to the Santa Clara Convention Center for the Synopsys Users Group (SNUG) Silicon Valley event. This will be our third year in a row exhibiting at this show, and it has become one of our favorites. We will also be speaking for the first time ever, and we’ll fill in all the details shortly. But let’s start by looking at why this show stands out and why we enjoy it so much.

SNUG actually has quite an interesting history. It began in 1991 as a way for Synopsys users to discuss common problems and solutions, meet with technical experts from the company’s R&D and AE teams, and learn about new products and features. Unlike many single-vendor conferences, SNUG has been driven largely by the users. They choose the papers to be presented and make many of the key decisions on how the event is run. Synopsys of course provides support in many ways.


Decoding Formal Club Unlocks Some Mysteries

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

Last May, I published two blog posts on the presentations made at a “Decoding Formal Club” event hosted by the smart folks from Oski Technology at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. With everything else going on, I didn’t manage to make it to another of their regular meetings until last week. The first event of 2015 was very interesting, so again I’m returning to the popular topic of formal analysis and playing reporter. The line between media and blogging is rather thin these days anyway.

This edition of Decoding Formal featured three talks, one an end-user case study and the other two  instructional in nature from well-known formal experts. I found all three worthwhile and will do my best to communicate some of the main points made. I also have to mention the final presentation, more a performance than a talk, by the inimitable and irrepressible Clifford Stoll. Lately he’s been manufacturing and selling Klein bottles, which you may remember from a geometry teacher trying to mess with your mind.


It Was a Great DVCon, and There Are Two More to Come

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

In last week’s blog post on The Breker Treker we previewed this week’s Design and Verification Conference (DVCon) in San Jose, the leading industry event for verification professionals. We had a really good time there, finishing up just this afternoon. We always enjoy DVCon, but this week was even more fun than usual. We met attendees from an amazing range of companies designing SoCs, from simple microcontrollers to some of the largest FPGAs and custom chips on the planet.

Three aspects of the show really stood out: intense interest in cache coherency verification, considerable curiosity about the Accellera Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG), and the number of people who started the conversation with “I’ve heard good things about Breker from a colleague” or “I was told that I really need to check you out.” Let’s discuss what each of these trends means for the industry and speculate about the impact on Breker.


The Importance of DVCon and Why Breker Will Be There

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Most of the time when we blog about upcoming conferences, report live from an ongoing show, or summarize one that’s just finished, we see a significant spike in readership. Clearly our followers want to keep up with what’s happening in trade shows, conferences, and other industry events. It may also be the case that tighter travel budgets have reduced the ability to attend conferences in person, driving all the more interest in reading the news from the field. A few weeks ago, we discussed DesignCon and explained how it had evolved to include almost no verification content.

Next week is the annual Design and Verification Conference (DVCon) in San Jose, an event that we have covered in considerable detail in several popular posts in the past. As we have discussed, this conference has become the main way to keep up on what’s happening in the ever-changing world of functional verification. We encourage you to check out their Web site and the complete program. The topics include the UVM, SystemVerilog, SystemC, code generation, multi-language, mixed-signal, formal techniques, coverage metrics, and low-power verification.


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