Verification Update

Verification accounts for a significant portion of the budget and time for developing a chip. EDA vendors address the verification market in a variety of ways: improved simulation software, simulation farms, hardware acceleration and emulation and so forth. I had a chance to discuss two recent product introductions in this arena from Cadence and Mentor Graphics.

On April 24th Cadence announced its Incisive® Enterprise Scenario Builder. I had an opportunity to talk with Sylvia Hurat of Product Marketing and Steve Brown author of Scenario Builder.

Everything about verification solutions is actually about the risk of shipping a product that has not been properly verified. Each time you want to introduce a new methodology or a new tool you are increasing your risk. The real balance is to help customers improve their verification process while reducing the overall risk of their design and verification. The Incisive verification solution from Cadence is all about reducing the risk of verification.

We have created different families of verification products within the Incisive platform that address the needs of different types of customers. These are the HDL family, the Design Team family and the Enterprise family. Very small customers doing small ASIC designs may just need to improve the performance of their simulation. That's why we have a HDL family which is all about HDL creation and simulation. For larger teams doing larger chip we have the Design Team Verification solution. The design team is in charge of doing the design as well as the verification. This solution includes the creation of HDL and simulation as well as formal analysis and assertion based verification. We have created a methodology, a plan-to-closure methodology for this particular type of customer. For those that have a higher level of complexity when they design very large chips or system level chips we have the Enterprise level of verification solutions that addressees the needs of complex product teams that include specialists that are in charge of different tasks during the project life. You have logic designers doing the design, verification engineers in charge of performing the verification of the chip and the system, verification managers and so forth. All these multi-specialist teams have a high level of needs in terms of verification. They also have the need of a solution to address all the different specialist skills. For that we also have a plan-to-closure methodology and expert support. For these users we are adding to the Design Team solution SystemC modeling, acceleration and emulation capabilities.

What is Scenario Builder?
Scenario Builder is a technology that we are adding to the Enterprise family solution. It is a technology that addresses the needs of multi-specialists teams. Scenario Builder addresses the needs of designers by enabling them to help with advanced verification without the need of acquiring verification expertise. This is a brand new technology developed by Cadence, a really unique technology which enables people to create very complex multi-channel scenarios without any knowledge of object oriented programming as was the case in the past. It does not require any knowledge of hardware verification languages either. It is all about graphical creation and addition. That is what is truly unique. The tool we have has an abstract representation of very complex verification environment and verification IP so that customers can achieve maximum benefit from its reusability.

The Scenario Builder flow supports verification specialists that are in charge of planning, architecting and developing the verification environment. Those are very high skilled tasks. When the verification environment is ready, they can deliver it to the designers or to the test writers. They in turn can use Scenario Builder to create reusable sequences, complex real life scenarios that can be run in this verification environment. The goal is to have a verification specialist focus on high value tasks while once the designers know what has to be tested, they can focus on creating those tests.

Where did the idea for Scenario Builder come from?
When we started thinking about Scenario Builder, we asked what technology we could use to enable non-specialists to do a very skilled task like creating multi-channel scenarios. We thought about audio recording software that enables people like you and me to create multi-track sounds, music by combining existing loops and samples in a multi-track audio system and do pretty much professional recording at home on a PC. This was the idea we leveraged to create Scenario Builder.

The Scenario Builder is a GUI based tool which enables people who do not know anything about verification to create complex scenarios. The verification environment created by the specialist is abstracted to a level that is really easy to understand by anyone. You have multi-channels. But each interface to the design is actually a different channel. You can create sequences that are actual stimuli that are applied to a channel or you can create multi-channel sequences combining these sequences on each channel to form more complex real life scenarios. The customer is presented with graphics. Once a channel is selected he has access to all the building blocks that can be used to start building those scenarios. These blocks can be quite complex sequences that have been built in the past and stored in sequence libraries. These sequence libraries are created by the designer or by the verification environment builder who wants to provide people with complex building blocks.
Scenario Builder Graphical User Interface

At any time the user is presented with context sensitive Help. If the user doesn't know exactly what the sequence in the library is doing, then by just moving the cursor on top of it he will see a command that tells him what the sequence is doing. They can very easily start combining them using drag and drop capabilities.

The designer can control the constraint he wants to apply to each element, so he can reach his corner cases in a more efficient manner. This tool is highly useful when incorporating commercial Verification IP because VIP provider actually builds a set of predefined sequences. The test writing is much more accelerated.

Scenario Builder is about the natural visualization of advanced verification environment for people who have no knowledge or expertise in verification. It extracts only the important information for creating tests. It is about the easy composition of doing complex scenarios by using drag and drop elements in different interfaces and channels. You end up with real-life scenarios without knowledge of object oriented programming. It simplifies the use of verification IP by filtering all the info that is needed.

The benefit for the customer is more flexible way of managing the verification team. You can use people with little or no experience in the verification process to help them with test creation. You remove the need for training. You maximize the value of VIP reuse.

Pricing and packaging?
Scenario Builder is a standalone product. It lists for $20K per year for a shared license.

Can Scenario Builder be effectively used outside the Incisive environment?
It is meant to be used in that environment.

Is there any target opportunity in terms of the chips being designed?
Not really. It is targeted at all the customers using Incisive for verification.

Would you estimate the number of Incisive customers or market share?
No. Incisive is a broad set of verification capabilities. Analyst firms like Gartner provide estimates. Editor's note: Functional Verification accounted for 21% of total revenue for Cadence in 2005.

How long has Scenario Builder been under development?
It was part of the Verisity solution set.

Was it a commercial product at Verisity or technology still under development?
It was under development there.

Any early release or beta sites?
Yes! It is actually in production. See the quotes from Ceva and Globaltech Solutions in the press announcement. There are about a dozen customers using the tool.

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