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Posts Tagged ‘IP’

If Your Chip Is Not a Cache-Coherent SoC, It Soon Will Be

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Yes, we know that the title of this week’s post sounds a lot like two previous posts. We wanted to link together the two threads from those posts into a single message that we believe reflects what is happening right now in the world of complex chips. This is a short summary in line with the short week due to the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States. The line of argument is straightforward:

  • Large chips are adding embedded processors to implement complex functionality while retaining flexibility
  • Single-processor chips are adding multiprocessor clusters to get better performance at a given process node
  • Multiprocessor chips are using shared memory for effective data transfer and interprocess communication
  • Neighbor-connected processor arrays are moving to shared memory to reduce cross-chip data latency
  • Multiprocessor designs are adding caches to reduce memory access time and bypass memory bottlenecks
  • Multiprocessors with caches require coherency in order to ensure that the right data is always accessed

While most of these statements are not universally true, they reflect a significant sea change that we see every day when discussing current and future projects with our customers.

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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.

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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.

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If Your Chip Is Not an SoC, It Soon Will Be

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Last week’s post was addressed primarily to those of you who are already designing SoCs. We made the point that more and more SoCs have multiple processors, either homogenous or heterogeneous, and that most or all of those processors do or will have caches. This led to the main conclusions of the post, that multi-processor cache coherency is necessary for most SoCs, and therefore that coherency is now a problem extending beyond CPU developers to many chip-level verification teams.

But what if you don’t have embedded processors in your design? There’s a clear sense emerging in the industry that more and more types of chips are becoming multi-processor SoCs, and most of these will require cache coherency for the CPU clusters and beyond. In this post we’ll describe the trends we see, based in part on what we learned at the recent Linley Processor Conference in Santa Clara. The world as we know it is changing rapidly, offering more challenges for verification teams but more opportunities for us to help.

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If Your SoC Is Not Cache Coherent, It Soon Will Be

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

In last week’s post, we discussed in detail how Breker’s TrekSoC and TrekSoC-Si products can verify the performance of your SoC by stressing every aspect of its functionality. Shortly before that, we announced a partnership with Carbon Design Systems to complement their fast, accurate processor models with TrekSoC. About two months ago, we introduced the new Coherency TrekApp and described how it can verify multi-processor cache coherency with minimal effort.

You can see a strong theme here: multi-processor SoC designs, fast simulation models, automatic generation of multi-threaded, multi-processor test cases, and test cases powerful enough to gather realistic performance metrics from pre-silicon simulation. But what if you don’t have multiple processors or caches in your SoC design? There’s a clear sense emerging in the industry that more and more chips are becoming multi-processor SoCs, and most of these will require cache coherency for the CPU clusters and beyond. Let’s explore this topic more in this post.

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Report from the Silicon Valley IP Users Conference

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

I spent Tuesday of this week in the Winchester Mystery House, San Jose’s best-known tourist attraction, hearing a wide variety of opinions about design IP, verification IP (VIP), the Internet of Things (IoT), and related topics. “Unlock the Mystery of IP: Silicon Valley IP Users Conference” was organized and presented by IPextreme and their Constellations program partners. I found most of the talks quite interesting, and would like to share some thoughts on what the experts’ projections might mean for Breker and our customers.

There is no doubt that the increasing use of IP is key to designing ever larger chips. Kands Manickam of IPextreme noted that, over the next five years, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of IP blocks and subsystems is expected to be 12% versus 3.5% for semiconductors. Randy Smith of Sonics reported that the average large chip today has about 120 blocks, growing to more than 200 by 2018. We already know that VIP reuse is not as effective as design IP reuse, and these projections will only exacerbate the gap.

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Making Verification Debug Less Painful

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

In our last post, we discussed the results of a survey by Wilson Research Group and Mentor Graphics. Among other interesting statistics, we learned that verification engineers spend 36% of their time on debug. This seems consistent with both previous surveys and general industry wisdom. As SoC designs get larger and more complex, the verification effort grows much faster than the design effort. The term “verification gap” seems to be on the lips of just about every industry observer and analyst.

We noted that debug can be separated into three categories: hardware, software, and infrastructure. Hardware debug involves tracking down an error in the design, usually in the RTL code. Software debug is needed when a coding mistake in production software prevents proper function. Verification infrastructure–testbenches and models of all kinds–may also contain bugs that need to be diagnosed and fixed. As promised, this post discusses some of the ways that Breker can help in all three areas.

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Who Will Win the Embedded Processor War?

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

As you likely know by now, Breker’s primary focus is on verifying SoCs with one or more embedded processors. Sometimes these processors are homogenous, most commonly either the Intel/AMD x86 or ARM architecture. Other SoCs have multiple heterogeneous processors, possibly a diverse mix of cores from x86, ARM, MIPS, ARC, Tensilica, etc.

The trade press devotes a lot of virtual ink to covering the “war” for embedded processor dominance. An article last week made the case for ARM winning. A recent white paper discussed “heterogeneous multi-processing” using ARM’s “big.LITTLE” approach of multiple cores with the same architecture but different performance characteristics. Another article reminded us not to forget about DSPs in the heterogeneous mix. The same could be written about GPUs. So what is Breker’s take on all this?

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Will Graph-Based Scenario Models Dominate Verification?

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

In last week’s post, I responded to an article in which Jasper‘s CEO is quoted as saying “formal will dominate verification” and that concluded “at some point in the future, formal will be the default choice for every verification task in the way that simulation/emulation is today.” I challenged this statement, giving examples of SoC verification where I do not believe that formal analysis alone can provide the answer.

Thinking about formal in that way naturally led me to ask the same question about Breker’s technology. Will graph-based scenario models “dominate verification?” At some point in the future, will graph-based scenario models “be the default choice for every verification task in the way that simulation/emulation is today?” As I promised last week, I’ll offer my thoughts on these questions as well.

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Will Formal Really Dominate Verification?

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Today’s post is prompted by a recent article on SemiWiki in which Jasper Design Automation’s CEO Kathryn Kranen is quoted as saying “formal will dominate verification.” There is a nice set of metrics from Jasper’s recent User Group meeting showing their impressive growth in revenue, logos, users, and licenses as supporting evidence for formal’s increasing footprint. The article concludes by stating “at some point in the future, formal will be the default choice for every verification task in the way that simulation/emulation is today.”

That made me sit up and take notice. Before joining Breker, I spent the previous 12 years of my career focusing on formal analysis, about six years full-time and the rest as one component of a wider suite of verification products I managed. I’m a big fan of formal, but I don’t think that I can comfortably predict that it will “dominate” verification. Let  me share my thoughts.

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