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 The Breker Trekker

Posts Tagged ‘formal analysis’

Designers and Verification Engineers: Living in Different Worlds Together

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

As I discussed at last week, there are many different engineering roles involved in the development of a large, complex semiconductor device. The EDA industry attempts to serve nearly all of these groups, from the architects and product marketing engineers who dream up the new ideas to the technicians who test production parts on the factory floor. Today I’m focusing on the work of two of EDA’s most traditional customer bases: hardware designers and hardware verification engineers.

Perhaps I’d better explain my title. It comes from an old expression “we went to different schools together” that I remember hearing as a youngster. Sometimes this refers to two people who didn’t actually attend the same school but who are nevertheless longtime close friends. But I’ve also heard it used to refer to two people who did in fact go to school together but had very different experiences. This latter context is the one I have mind for design and verification engineers who work on the same project yet inhabit different worlds.

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There Is No Silver Bullet for Low-Power Verification

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Anyone who reads The Breker Trekker from time to time needs no convincing from me that verification is a huge challenge for today’s complex chips. Breker’s Trek family of products exists, along with dozens if not hundreds of other EDA products, specifically to address functional verification. There are more technologies, tools, platforms, libraries, and methodologies than any one verification engineer can possibly learn and use on a day-to-day basis.

Why this diversity of solutions? As I first observed in Electronic Engineering Times nearly a decade ago, there is no silver bullet for verification. The problem is both so broad and so deep that no single tool or technology will ever satisfy the need. It takes a mix of solutions, guided by methodologies, to have any chance of first-silicon success. Low-power verification is an area where this is especially true, and unfortunately there is no silver bullet to be found here either.

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Are Verification and Validation Different? Does Anyone Care?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

For the most part, the terms “verification” and “validation” are used interchangeably in the electronics industry. However, there are many who argue that these are distinct activities in the development of SoC s and systems, performed at different times in the schedule and usually by different groups of engineers. We refer to ourselves as “The SoC Verification Company” and this is a deliberate choice we made. So we thought that it would be useful to define the two terms as we see them and talk about the similarities and  differences.

This post was inspired by an article from 2010 that our CFO and co-founder Maheen Hamid discovered recently. It opens with the “usual definitions” as follows:

  • “Validation: Are we building the right system?”
  • “Verification: Are we building the system right?”

This seems like a good place to start the discussion.

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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.

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A Fond Farewell to DAC 51 in San Francisco

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

The 51st Design Automation Conference (DAC) has passed into the history books with three days of exhibits and a wide range of enveloping technical sessions and tutorials. After returning home, I’m thinking back over the week fondly as I nurse feet that ache more than I thought possible. Before I get back into the usual work routine, I want to capture some of the impressions and thoughts running through my head.

There is no doubt that  big forces in the industry are aligning toward our view of SoC verification with graph-based scenario models. Many of the people who stopped by our “USS Ice Breker” booth completely understood that they risked hitting an iceberg with their minimal full-chip verification efforts. Some had heard about Breker from colleagues or had seen us listed in Gary Smith’s and John Cooley’s DAC “must see” lists. Others knew little about us but were attracted by our claim as “The SoC Verification Company.” All wanted to know how we can help them.

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DAC is Back! A Preview of the San Francisco Show

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

DAC is back, Jack! The big show returns to San Francisco for two years before heading back to Austin. Last year was a special one for Breker, with our 10th anniversary as a company, the 50th year of DAC, and the first time for the show in Austin, our birthplace. But no location draws more visitors and more buzz than San Francisco. It’s a short train ride from traditional Silicon Valley and arguably part of an extended definition of Silicon Valley that includes a fair chunk of the Bay Area.

This year’s show promises plenty of excitement, and we’d like to fill you in. Of course, we will be there as part of the always lively exhibit floor. Those of you who attended DAC in Austin will surely remember our naval-themed “USS Ice Breker” booth, which we loved so much we’re shipping it to San Francisco. No visit to the DAC exhibits would be complete without stopping by to see Breker in booth 2602 and taking a “cruise” with us. You can request a meeting at a specific time by visiting our DAC signup page.

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Building a Productive Team for New Verification Approaches

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Last week I used a talk by Vigyan Singhal, CEO of formal consulting experts Oski Technology, as the springboard for a blog post on how to extend verification planning for formal analysis and graph-based SoC verification. This week, I’m using a panel held at that same “Decoding Formal Club” meeting as the starting point for my thoughts on how to establish an effective team to use relatively new verification technologies such as formal and graphs.

The second half of the meeting was a panel on “How to Build a Productive Formal Team” moderated by Harry Foster from Mentor. The participants included a nice mix of users, while Vigyan rounded out the panel with his unique blend of formal tool development and hands-on usage with many customers. Although there wasn’t much controversy per se, it was clear that everyone had different experiences leading to different opinions on how to build a strong formal team.

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Extending Verification Planning to Formal and Graphs

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Last week I mentioned that I attended the third “Decoding Formal Club” meeting sponsored by formal consulting experts Oski Technology. I started out to write about this event but was distracted by the big news that Cadence had acquired formal leader Jasper Design Automation for $170M. As the meeting was winding up, a friend from Mentor picked up the news alert and showed it to me. I pulled up the news on my own smartphone and showed it to Vigyan Singhal, CEO of Oski and also the original founder of Jasper.

So I had the pleasure of informing Jasper’s founder that his old company had been acquired. But I don’t want to let that bit of fun or the Jasper news in general to lead us to forget about the Decoding Formal meeting. There were two primary segments: a presentation from Vigyan on verification planning and a panel of expert users on building a formal team. I’ll talk about the presentation today and cover the panel in a future post.

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April 21, 2014: A-Day for Formal Analysis

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Yesterday may well go down in EDA history as one of the most important days in the evolution of the market for formal analysis. If you had asked me why yesterday morning, I would have said it was because I was attending the third “Decoding Formal Club” meeting sponsored by formal consulting experts Oski Technology. The range of companies represented there, and the enthusiasm for the topic, was a clear indication that formal has become an A-list technology for many verification teams.

So I planned to write today’s post about this meeting. But then, just as it was ending and Oski was thanking all the participants, news broke that Cadence had acquired formal leader Jasper Design Automation for $170M. Of course, this news was of intense interest to the attendees. It made yesterday “Acquisition Day” for formal analysis, so I’ll dub it “A-Day” and provide some thoughts in this post. I will talk a bit about the meeting as well, but will go into more details about the material presented in a future post.

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Ruminating about Accelerating, Emulating, and Prototyping

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Last week I published a commentary on the Electronic Engineering Times site about the recent growth in the hardware emulation market. I noted that hardware-based platforms have become almost as big a market as software simulation and that some industry projections see them becoming dominant over the next few years. Of course, our friends at Jasper are predicting that formal will become the dominant verification technology, so it will be fun watching a three-way race.

For this post, I want to dig a bit deeper on hardware platforms in general. Historically, such platforms have been divided into three categories: simulation acceleration, in-circuit emulation (ICE), and FPGA prototyping. The reality is that these are no longer clearly distinct categories; there is a lot of fuzziness and even some overlap. While the market for all three types of hardware platforms is growing, I find that my observations and opinions vary depending upon which specific solution I’m considering.

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