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 The Breker Trekker

Posts Tagged ‘SoC’

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:

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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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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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DVCon India: Harbinger of a Great SoC Future

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Last week we summarized some of the activities at the inaugural DVCon India. Breker was not the only company impressed by this show. For example, CVC wrote two posts on their VerifNews blog describing the excitement and range of technical content at the show. Gaurav Jalan captured several aspects of the show in his Sid’dha-karana blog, focusing specifically on the keynote speakers. The Agnisys blog also provided a nice overview. Clearly this was a very successful event.

The high quality of the technical content and the excellent attendance at DVCon lead me to think about how much India has changed in just a few years. I first had an engineering team there in 1995, nearly 20 years ago. I recall my first trip to India very well and the contrast with recent visits is tremendous. I’ve been deeply impressed by the evolution of electronics development in India and I see the DVCon success as both a tribute to where the community is today and a sign of even better things to come.

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Alex, I’ll Take “SoC Verification” for $600

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

As you may have noticed, we call Breker “The SoC Verification Company” because we truly believe that we are defining a new category of EDA tools for SoC verification that has not been adequately addressed by other approaches. In the spirit of an engineer defining his or her terms before use, and with a nod to the long-running TV game show Jeopardy, let’s discuss what defines SoC verification and why it is different from verification of IP blocks and other types of chips.

Let’s start one clue higher on the Jeopardy board, with “SoC” for $400. What exactly is a system on chip (SoC)? Some would argue that any large, complex chip qualifies. We beg to differ. Should a pure processor, no matter how powerful, be called an SoC? Alternatively, should a giant network crossbar switch with no central processor be considered an SoC? The Breker viewpoint says that neither qualifies. We believe that an SoC contains at least one reasonably powerful embedded processor (8-bit MCUs don’t count) and multiple IP blocks interconnected by some sort of bus or fabric.

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