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Posts Tagged ‘PSWG’

Breker, Cadence, and Mentor Accelerate Portable Stimulus Standard

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

This morning, Breker issued a press release with Cadence and Mentor Graphics announcing a joint contribution to the Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG) of Accellera Systems Initiative. We expect that this news may be surprising to much of the EDA world, so we’d like to take today’s post on The Breker Trekker to fill in some background and offer you the opportunity to ask questions. Please note that we are speaking only for Breker in this post although we doubtless share many opinions with our co-contributors.

Let’s start with a quick summary of how Accellera works so that all readers understand the context for this major contribution. The portable stimulus effort started with a Proposed Working Group last year that assessed the interest in a standard and defined a set of more than 100 requirements that such a standard would have to satisfy. Accellera approved the formation of the PSWG and we began meeting in March of this year. We have refined the requirements list and also developed a set of “use cases” showing the sort of real-world verification problems that a standard would have to address.

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Life on the Embedded-EDA Frontier

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

A month ago, our blog post on The Breker Trekker concerned life on the hardware-software frontier. We discussed the ever-shifting line between hardware and software and how we at Breker seem to be straddling that line as we generate embedded C/C++ test cases for hardware verification. Yesterday we published an article on the ongoing merger between the worlds of embedded systems and EDA. We made a number of observations about how the two industries are drawing closer together.

We didn’t talk about Breker in yesterday’s article, but today we’d like to connect these two threads and talk about how we are now straddling the increasingly fuzzy line between embedded and EDA verification. This is a topic we’ve discussed internally from time to time, and we have taken some steps into the embedded world by exhibiting at ARM TechCon and publishing articles in magazine and on sites geared toward embedded designers and programmers.

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The Second DVCon India Looks Even Better than the First

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Last week we discussed some of the drivers in the electronics industry influencing the program for the upcoming DVCon India, September 10-11 in  Bangalore. The Technical Program Committee has completed its arduous task of selecting among many worthy proposals for sessions and has posted a near-final program. Today we’d like to highlight some of the most interesting aspects of the packed two days, focusing on sessions that we believe will be a particular draw for those who follow Breker and SoC verification.

There are four conference-wide keynote speeches, from Atul Bhatia (formerly of nSys), Harry Foster of Mentor, Manoj Gandhi of Synopsys, and Vinay Shenoy of Infineon. They will set the tone for the event by discussing the high-level challenges in designing and verifying leading-age semiconductor devices. Nick Heaton of Cadence will keynote the Design and Verification Track (DV) while Pankaj Singh of Infineon and Dr. Sacha Loitz of Continental will give invited talks in the Electronic System Level (ESL) track.

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Industry Drivers for DVCon India

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Many of our readers may recall that Breker aggressively promoted the inaugural DVCon India last year. We supported the show itself by sponsoring a booth in the exhibition and delivering three conference talks. It turned out, much to our delight, that that hottest topic at the show was portable stimulus. There was a great deal of interest in the newly formed Accellera Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG) and how Breker’s products provided a well-tested solution meeting all of the PSWG’s requirements.

The second DVCon India is less than a month away, on September 10-11 at Leela Palace in Bangalore. I have every expectation that portable stimulus will be a major theme again. We’re also very busy promoting the event to ensure its success, especially since I am co-chair of the Promotions Committee. I will be covering the details of the sessions and our own participation in next week’s blog post. For today, I’d like to focus on some of the industry drivers that are influencing the interest of potential attendees and the selection of content for the technical program.

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Life on the Hardware-Software Frontier

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

In last week’s post, we spent quite a bit of time talking about the concept of a (realistic) use case that reflected how actual users will eventually manipulate the design being verified. Our focus was on Breker’s graph-based scenario models and how they can easily and concisely capture such use cases. We did some research on the term “use case” and found that it seems to be more common in software design and verification than in hardware verification. That caused us to think about how we at Breker seem to be living on the hardware-software frontier.

It’s not uncommon for hardware designers and software engineers to borrow ideas from each other. Code coverage, for example, was well established in software before it was adopted for hardware design and verification languages. With the move from gates to RTL, hardware became just another form of code and therefore more amenable to software techniques. This is just one example showing that the boundary between hardware and software is fuzzy and changing over time.

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Using Scenario Models to Capture Use Cases

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

One of the signs that a technological domain is still fairly young is frequently evolving terminology as the pioneers attempt to explain to the mainstream what problem needs to be solved and what solutions can be brought to bear on the problem. Such is the case with SoC verification. At Breker we used to start explaining what we do by talking about graphs, but shifted to “graph-based scenario models” to emphasize that graphs are perfect for expressing scenarios of real-world behavior.

Our friends at Mentor, also strong advocates for graphs, began using the term “software-driven verification” to describe their approach. We rather like this description, but feel that it can only be applied accurately when embedded test code is being generated and when the embedded processors are in charge of the test case. Now our friends at Cadence have been sprinkling the term “use case” throughout their discussions on SoC and system verification. Let’s try to sort out what all this means.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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