March 17, 2003
Division of Labor
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Well, maybe not divine, but certainly unavoidable, expensive, often inefficient and incomplete, yet (almost) always critical to the success of a project and to the level of subsequent customer satisfaction - particularly in multi-million gate designs produced with next-generation process technologies.
But if you've been out and about at technical conferences lately, you may have heard rumors of strategic personnel cutbacks that keep the designers, but eliminate dedicated verification engineers for the sake of the bottom line.
How can this be? How can the industry continue to pay lip service to well-verified designs, when personnel crucial to verification are being laid off? Are the current verification tools capable of picking up the slack? Can the current crop of design engineers handle these tools with the same skill and familiarity as a modern-day verification engineer? Or instead - are all of the rumors simply unfounded?
A variety of verification tool vendors were asked to respond to these questions, and their answers are listed below. Their responses are not identical and it's interesting to discern the subtle distinctions between their opinions. It was tempting to leave the names of the companies off of their responses, to disconnect a company's technology initiatives from its philosophy regarding today's design & verify personnel conundrum. But can you ever separate a company's philosophy from its fundamental technology? Not really, so the names of the companies were left in place.
Meanwhile, after you've had a chance to read the various statements, you'll also have a chance to hear from Janick Bergeron, industry veteran and Moderator of the Verification Guild. He says his opinions on the design-versus-verification engineer issue are “well known.” Nonetheless, it's great to have him weighing in on the discussion and his input is appreciated.
So, consider this to be a panel discussion of sorts. There are 12 panelists and an expert moderator, ready to attack the topic at hand. Read on and learn what you will.
(Editor's Note: The responses here are verbatim, as received. Thanks to all who took the time to respond and to contribute to the dialog. I am particularly grateful to those who refrained, as much as possible, from inserting marketing language into their comments.)
Once again, here's the question:
“Voices in the industry seem to be indicating that many companies cannot afford to - or choose not to - have a separate individual on the design team who handles verification. Therefore, are the verification tools currently available easily understood and used by design engineers who are NOT verification engineers? In other words, are verification engineers no longer needed?”
And here are the answers:
Emil Girczyc, CEO and President at 0-In Design Automation, Inc. - “The trend to having the same person design and verify has been a standard practice in software development for many years. This makes testing more effective because the tester knows both the specification and implementation enabling both black and white box testing. But more importantly, programmers learn to write code that is testable. Placing assertions in C code is common coding practice, as is documenting interfaces, documenting the internal code structure, and most importantly, writing testable code.”
several months' delay, and possibly a field recall - hardware requires more rigorous testing of the RTL implementation than does C code.”
“This will likely be done by verification specialists (or designers acting as verification engineers). There will also always be a role for someone on the team who (full-time or part-time) sets up the infrastructure for regression testing, metrics, etc. that will be used by all verification engineers. This is not just a function of running the tools, but having the extra insight and time to plan a methodology and set up the infrastructure to make verification robust, effective, and efficient.”
the designer are caught later by the system-level or verification engineer. But at that point, the design has matured to the point where fixes are more difficult and expensive to make.”
to doing system-level verification, they actually do have specialists responsible for the verification that are, in fact, equivalent to a verification engineer.”
verification?' It is well documented that 70% or more of total design time is spent on verifying the design. This underlines the necessity for verification. Companies cannot afford to not have engineers whose responsibility is focused on making sure a design works as it should.”
teams. Similarly, the designers are also using Verix to verify multi-clock designs to ensure that signals are safely crossing asynchronous clock domains.”
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-- Peggy Aycinena, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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