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Is the Forecast Cloudy Yet for EDA?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

It has been almost exactly two years since we discussed the possibility of EDA tools in the cloud here on The Breker Trekker. The post was popular then, and it remains so. In fact, of the more than 100 posts we’ve published, our cloud post remains the second most read. This week, the recent news that IBM will make its EDA tools available in the cloud through a partnership with SiCAD brought cloud computing back to the forefront. Let’s discuss what has changed–and what hasn’t–in the past two years.

The idea of users being able to run EDA tools as leased enterprise software on remote machines has been around for years, well before the term “the cloud” was widely used. Synopsys invested a great deal of time and effort into its DesignSphere infrastructure, initially more of a grid application than a cloud solution as we use the term today. But the difference is not very important; the key concepts are the same and they represent a major departure from the time-tested model of customers “owning” EDA tools and running them in-house.


Please Help Us Choose Our Next TrekApp

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

As we have discussed before, we have followed the lead of other EDA vendors by packaging aspects of our advanced verification technologies into pushbutton applications (apps). The first in this product line, our Cache Coherency TrekApp, has been very popular since its introduction last year. As we have covered in depth, this is due in part to the trend of large chips becoming multiprocessor SoCs with multi-level caches. The sudden escalation of cache coherency verification from the CPU developer to the system integrator created strong demand for our nicely bundled solution.

There are many other trends ongoing and emerging in the SoC industry, and we have a long list of ideas for possible TrekApps to help address the challenges that are arising. We would like your help in prioritizing our development efforts. We have established a survey listing ten TrekApps under consideration. Please simply check off the ones of most interest to you by midnight Pacific time on June 30. All submissions will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card.


A Look Back at the 52nd DAC

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Last week we looked forward to the 52nd edition of the annual Design Automation Conference (DAC), held this week at Moscone Center in San Francisco. Today we look back at the past three days and all of the activity at the show. It was a very busy time for Breker as usual, but there were some special aspects this year that we’d like to mention. We also want to thank the many customers, prospects, colleagues, and even competitors who joined us at various times for provocative discussions and plenty of social networking. As always, we invite you to add your comments on DAC and what you thought about the show.

Overall, the exhibition floor seemed lively for most of the time. We frequently had multiple visitors in our booth, asking questions and watching demos. We focused on two aspects of our Trek product line: immediate availability of portable stimulus and pushbutton verification of cache coherency. We saw lots of interest in both topics and it’s hard to say which drew more attention. Our suite was booked for most of the time, with customers receiving updates from Breker and prospects discussing their verification challenges and how we might be able to help them.

Please Join Breker at DAC in San Francisco

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

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.


Portable Stimulus Layer 3: Test Randomization

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

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.


Portable Stimulus Layer 2: Test Scheduling

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

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.


Portable Stimulus Layer 1: Test Abstraction

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

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.


Options for a Portable Stimulus Specification Format

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

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.


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.


CST: Webinar series
DownStream: Solutions for Post Processing PCB Designs
TrueCircuits: IoTPLL

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