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 The Breker Trekker
Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing
Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing
Tom Anderson is vice president of Marketing for Breker Verification Systems. He previously served as Product Management Group Director for Advanced Verification Solutions at Cadence, Technical Marketing Director in the Verification Group at Synopsys and Vice President of Applications Engineering at … More »

Please Join Breker at DAC in San Francisco

 
June 2nd, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

We have less than a week to go before the most important event for EDA vendors and users: the annual Design Automation Conference (DAC). The show returns to Moscone Center in San Francisco, which has played host many times over the years. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, San Francisco is a great draw for out-of-towners but also just a short trip from Breker’s headquarters in the heart of Silicon Valley. The combination of a strong peer-reviewed technical conference and a busy exhibition floor is unbeatable, making this a must-attend event for many in our industry.

When the technical program first came out two months ago, we posted about some of the interesting changes made this year. There are some innovative additions to the program, including keynotes from non-EDA vendors, “sky talks” from industry experts, a major focus on the Internet of Things (IoT), and tracks for such important topics as automotive electronics, IP, and security. The popular Designer Track returns with case studies from real users, and there are plenty of deep technical papers for those who spend their days coding algorithms and optimizing data structures. At least eight sessions have significant verification content.

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Portable Stimulus Layer 3: Test Randomization

 
May 28th, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

Over the lifetime of this blog, we’ve covered a lot of diverse topics regarding Breker’s products and technology, trends in SoC verification, and the EDA industry in general. For the last month, we’ve offered our longest series of posts ever on a single topic: portable stimulus. There’s a very good reason for this: Accellera’s Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG) is making good progress on defining a standard in this area. As one of the group’s leaders, Breker has been leveraging our many years of experience in SoC verification to develop the best possible industry solution. We’ve been using The Breker Trekker blog to share our thoughts and to encourage your feedback.

We begin the fifth, and perhaps most important, post in our series by reminding you that we split portable stimulus into three layers: defining the tests using abstract primitive operations, scheduling the tests across multiple threads and multiple processors, and randomizing the control flow to verify the full range of realistic use-case scenarios. We have shown over the last two posts that both the first and second layers can be defined easily by a simple application programming interface (API) providing access to a base-class library. This library includes the basic building blocks needed for a directed or automated test as well as scheduling control for processors, threads, and resources. It is natural to wonder whether the randomization layer can be handled in a similar way.

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Portable Stimulus Layer 2: Test Scheduling

 
May 20th, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

Last week, we continued our  series of posts on the topic of “portable stimulus” as defined by Accellera’s Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG) and the standard they are working to define. We should say “we are working to define” since Breker is very much a part of the effort and is providing our many years of experience in this area to develop the best possible industry solution. As a reminder, we at Breker split the definition of a standard for portable stimulus into three parts: defining the tests using abstract primitive operations, scheduling the tests across multiple threads and multiple processors, and randomizing the control flow to verify the full range of realistic use-case scenarios.

Our most recent post dealt with the first layer: defining abstract tests using primitive operations and other elements within a base-class library, with access defined by a simple application programming interface (API). This week we consider the second layer: scheduling of tests and resources. If a verification engineer is writing a directed test for a single-processor SoC using the API calls from the first layer, then little of the second layer may apply. However, as we have discussed before, there is a clear trend of SoC designs moving to multi-processor designs with complex memory and cache subsystems and a rich variety of I/O protocols. These chips require automated test generation and the features provided by the test scheduling layer.

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Portable Stimulus Layer 1: Test Abstraction

 
May 14th, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

From the number of blog views, it’s clear that the topic of “portable stimulus” is of considerable interest to our readers. As a reminder, Accellera’s Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG) is developing a standard in this area and Breker is helping to lead this effort. In our last two posts on this topic, we have outlined our guiding principles for any proposed standard, based on our own experience over the years with our most advanced customers. We also split the goal of the portable stimulus effort into three parts: defining the tests using abstract primitive operations, scheduling the tests across multiple threads and multiple processors, and randomizing the control flow to verify the full range of realistic use-case scenarios.

For this post, we’re going to explore the first level in more detail. We made the statement in our last post that the test abstraction level can be standardized using a simple application programming interface (API) to specify the abstract steps of the test. The API defines the access to a base-class library providing the primitive operations used to create portable tests. First of all, let’s be clear that this is not a theoretical proposal. We have provided a library with a defined API for several years and this is a key building block of our own portable stimulus and test solution. We know that this approach works from our own customers and believe that it would be an excellent foundation for a standard.

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Options for a Portable Stimulus Specification Format

 
May 7th, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

In our last blog post we provided some updates on the ongoing effort by Accellera to standardize “portable stimulus” in its Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG). We mentioned our three guiding precepts as we participate in, and help lead, this industry effort:

  • Portable stimulus is not enough;  portable tests must encompass stimulus, results checking, and coverage
  • Test portability must encompass both vertical reuse from IP to SoC and horizontal reuse across all verification platforms
  • The tests themselves are not portable, but are generated for multiple targets from an abstract specification of the verification space

We stated our view that the goal of the portable stimulus effort can be split into three parts: defining the tests using abstract primitive operations, scheduling the tests across multiple threads and multiple processors, and randomizing the control flow to verify the full range of realistic use-case scenarios. We mentioned that the first part can be can be standardized using a simple application programming interface (API) to specify the abstract steps of the test. We have also found that the scheduling part can be handled by an expanded API. The user might want to specify the available resources and how they should be used in a particular test, for example, the number of threads running on each processor. When it comes to the third part, the randomization, an API might be feasible but there a number of candidate formats. We’d like to spend the remainder of this post examining these options.

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What Does “Portable Stimulus” Really Mean?

 
April 29th, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

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.

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

 
April 23rd, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

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.

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The Ever-Changing EDA Landscape

 
April 16th, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

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.

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The Ever-Changing Semiconductor Landscape

 
April 8th, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

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.

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A First Look at the Program for the 52nd DAC

 
April 2nd, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

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.

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