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 The Breker Trekker

Posts Tagged ‘EDA’

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.


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.


Top 5 New Holiday Gifts for the Verification Engineer

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Last year, we wound up in December with a post on the “Top 5 Holiday Gifts for the Verification Engineer” and it proved very popular despite the holiday timing. To refresh your memory (and ours), here is the 2013 list:

#5: Relief from hand-writing verification test code.
#4: Relief from hand-writing validation diagnostics.
#3: Vertical verification IP reuse from block to system.
#2: Horizontal verification IP reuse from electronic system level (ESL) to silicon.
#1: Effortless system coverage reflecting end-use applications.

As you might expect, every one of these gifts is still available today for users of our Trek family of products. But over the last year we have added two new products, many new features, and deeper integration into existing verification flows. So we’d like to wrap up 2014 with an all-new list of holiday gifts for the verification engineer. We hope you like them as much as you liked last year’s offerings:


Just What is a “Breker” Anyway?

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

As we predicted, last week’s guest post by Lauro Rizzatti on the origin of the names for some EDA companies and their products proved quite popular. We’ve found that mixing in some general industry news among the highly technical posts keeps our blog more lively and draws new readers, some of whom may tune in for the novelty but stay for the technology. Of course, we always welcome your comments as to whether or not we’re providing the type of content that’s interesting and valuable to you.

One naming story didn’t make it in before the deadline last week. Verific was one of the EDA companies asked about the origin of their name. President and COO Michiel Ligthart passed the question on to founder and CTO Rob Dekker, who said, “That will remain a mystery. But if you really want to know, ask the giraffe.” To find the giraffe, and maybe the answer, check out Verific’s Web site. To find the origin of the name “Breker Verification Systems” just continue reading. We promise to be less mysterious than Rob.


Guest Post: What’s in a Name?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Much as we like informing you about the latest technical advances at Breker and weighing in on various industry topics, we love to take a break every so often and welcome a guest blogger. The EDACafé statistics show that these usually draw very well, and doubtless they attract a varied set of readers. This week we’re delighted to welcome back emulation expert and verification consultant Lauro Rizzatti, who has chosen to provide us with a fun look at the art and science of naming EDA companies and their products:

What’s in a name? Apparently, plenty. Let’s dispense some holiday cheer, kick back and forgo any technical discussion for a look at how a few companies in our industry got their names. Naming companies and products is big business. In fact, an entire industry is devoted to coming up with the perfect name to neatly express a company’s mission and the product portfolio. In some cases, though, companies stick closer to their employees and have contests where they can suggest names. That’s how OneSpin Solutions got its name. An R&D consultant in the U.K. came up with the name and won a case of beer for his efforts.


A Math Question: Does IoT = SoC?

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Few electronics-related topics have been more widely discussed in the past year or so than the prospects for the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), sometimes called the Internet of Everything (IoE). Hardware and software vendors have been falling all over themselves trying to ride the presumed IoT juggernaut. EDA has not been immune. In its roundup of attendee feedback from this year’s Design Automation Conference (DAC), the DeepChip site quoted a user saying, “The ubiquity of IoT. After 6 hours into DAC, I was ready to slap the next vendor who used that buzzword.”

The trumpeting of IoT was even greater at ARM TechCon, not surprising because of its focus on embedded systems. Here at Breker, we’ve used the term sparingly because it’s not really clear exactly what the IoT will become. Certainly there will be many more nodes of all sorts connected to the Internet in coming years, but there are numerous open questions. Our main interest is whether the IoT will result in an explosion of new SoC designs, and hence a broader market for our verification solutions. This blog post doesn’t provide a firm answer since none is possible yet, but it’s a topic worth addressing.


Verification Needed to Take High-Level Synthesis Mainstream

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

This blog focuses mostly on verification, but from time to time we like to take a look at other aspects of the EDA industry. Today we’d like to discuss high-level synthesis (HLS), its progress and status, and what’s keeping it from being  a mainstream technology used for every chip design. It turns out that this topic has a lot to do with verification, so we’re not straying too far from our primary focus.

To start, let’s define what we mean by HLS in contrast to the mainstream technology of logic synthesis. Generating gates from a hardware description language (HDL) moved from a research problem to viable products around 1988. The ultimate winner among several promising companies was Synopsys, in part because they chose a register-transfer level (RTL) subset of the popular Verilog HDL as their input format. Their tools generated a gate-level netlist using the cells available in an ASIC vendor’s library.


Will Breker Become an IP Company?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

In last week’s blog post, we talked about the emergence of the commercial IP industry and shared some personal experiences. Although Breker is an EDA company and not known for IP products, we intersect with semiconductor IP (SIP) and verification IP (VIP) in important ways as we work with our customers. We’re also starting to offer our own scenario model IP (SMIP) as part of accelerating and improving verification even more. We’d like to expand on these topics in today’s post.

We have few if any customers or prospective customers who don’t use commercial VIP in their testbenches. After all, if you’re designing a standard interface you want the best verification possible that you’re meeting the standard. A VIP model that’s been used by dozens or hundreds of other projects serves as a pre-silicon “plugfest” where you get to verify your implementation of the standard against what others have done. Now that the Universal Verification Methodology (UVM) is nearly ubiquitous, most VIP is developed in a fairly consistent manner.


Some Thoughts on SIPs, VIPs, and SMIPs

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

In my recent report from the Silicon Valley IP Users Conference, I passed on the prediction that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of semiconductor (SIP) is expected to be 12% for the next five years. Clearly there is a growing need for portions of huge SoCs to be pre-designed, pre-verified, and delivered as reusable SIP. This is a trend that started about 20 years ago with the earliest SIP vendors selling libraries and cores for standardized functions along with verification IP (VIP) to support their use.

The IP (SIP and VIP) industry has evolved a lot since then. The most obvious change is that it has been largely consumed by the major EDA companies. Synopsys and Cadence, in particular, have made many acquisitions in this space over the past few years. Some of the price tags have been quite impressive:  US$380M  for Tensilica, US$315M for Virage, and about the same price for Denali. In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts on the evolution of the IP business.


Performance Verification: Bringing Your SoC to Its Knees

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

For those unfamiliar with the expression in the title, bringing someone (or something) to its knees means making it submissive. It’s a metaphor possibly derived from the act of hitting someone so hard that his knees buckle and he falls to a kneeling position. Why such a nasty term to start this post? Because when you want to verify the performance of your SoC you want to stress every aspect of it. You want to be mean to it. You want to bring it to its knees.

The most common way to do this is to run production software (operating systems plus applications) on a virtual prototype, a high-level system model created by architects before RTL implementation begins. This is not easy; it takes effort to set up workloads that will stress the design and often production software is not ready at this early stage of the SoC project. Further, this verifies only the high-level model, but RTL simulates too slowly to replicate the same tests, or often to boot the operating system at all.


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