Late last year, we published a series of blog posts discussing how the world of large chip designs is moving toward multi-processor, cache-coherent SoCs. This trend is due to several sub-trends, including the addition of one or more processors, the growth in number of processors, the use of shared memory, and the addition of caches to improve memory performance. The result of this movement is clear: large chips are becoming more difficult to verify than ever.
Verification teams face challenges at every turn. It’s hard to run a complete SoC-level model in simulation, especially if the team wants to boot an operating system and run production applications. This may be feasible in emulation or FPGA prototyping platforms, but these cost a lot of money. What we’re starting to see is the truly stunning trend that some teams are taping out SoCs without ever having run the entire design together. This means that full-chip verification and debug isn’t happening until first silicon is in the lab. Let’s explore why this is happening.