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Posts Tagged ‘FPGA’

FPGAs in an SoC World: How modern FPGA architecture influences verification methodologies

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

The SoC domination observed so far in the ASIC industry is coming to the FPGA world and changing the way FPGAs are used and FPGA projects are verified. The latest SoC FPGA devices  offer a very interesting alternative of reprogrammable logic powered with the microprocessor, usually ARM. With new types of devices there is always a need for extended verification methodology. SoC ASIC has so far been the main pioneer for advanced and highly scalable verification methodologies. Due to the complexity and size of such projects, ASIC labs were actually driving EDA vendors to deliver verification solutions for their projects.

 

With the growth of these projects, hardware emulation became a common tool which was then integrated with virtual platforms and labeled ‘hybrid co-emulation’. This hybrid solution offered a single verification platform for both software and hardware teams. Such platforms allow the performance of verification at the SoC level, allowing the entire project to be verified before the final design code is actually written and available for example, to perform the prototyping.

 

Hybrid emulation allows the connection of the work environment of software teams using virtual platforms with the hardware engineers using emulators. Why is this so important? The issue is, until now the software portion of the project worked on the virtual models, separate from the hardware portion. Connecting these two domains allows for testing of the project at the SoC level instead of the subsystems level, which in turn increases the coverage of testing and enables the detection of problems much earlier.

 

Hybrid_co-emulation_verification_system

Figure 1 – Hybrid co-emulation verification system.

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Software Driven Test of FPGA Prototype: Use Development Software to Drive Your DUT on an FPGA Prototyping Platform

Monday, April 10th, 2017

on chip analyzerMost everyone would agree how important FPGA prototyping is to test and validate an IP, sub-system, or a complete SoC design. Before the design is taped-out it can be validated at speeds near real operating conditions with physical peripherals and devices connected to it instead of simulation models. At the same time, these designs are not purely hardware, but these days incorporate a significant amount of the software stack and so co-verification of hardware and software is put at high importance among other requirements in the verification plan.

 

However, preparing a robust FPGA prototype is not a trivial task. It requires strong hardware skills and spending a lot of time in the lab to configure and interconnect all required peripheral devices with an FPGA base board. Even more difficult is to create a comprehensive test scenario which contains procedures to configure various peripherals. Programming hundreds of registers in proper sequence and then reacting on events, interrupts, and checking status registers is a complex process. The task which is straightforward during simulation, where full control over design is assured, becomes extremely hard to implement in an FPGA prototype. Facing this challenge, verification engineers often connect a microprocessor or microcontroller daughter card to the main FPGA board. The IP or SoC subsystem you are designing will be connected with some kind of CPU anyhow, so this way seems natural. Having a CPU connected to the design implemented in an FPGA facilitates creating programmatically reconfigurable test scenarios and enables test automation. Moreover, the work of software developers can be now reused as the software stack with device drivers can become a part of the initialization procedure in the hardware test.. The software can become a part of the initialization procedure in the hardware test. If that makes sense to you, then why not use an FPGA board that has all you need – both FPGA and the CPU?
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Aldec Springs Into Action: A look back at a busy show season

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Aldec at DVConIt’s been a busy season for Aldec. The weather has warmed here in the desert and as the trees and greenery enliven in spring, Aldec has also been bursting with activity. From DVCon to the International Symposium on FPGAs in the US to Embedded World and CTIC in Europe, there have been some exciting developments from Aldec in verification, embedded systems, and DO-254.

These major events and conferences have been a great time to provide some updates on the latest Aldec endeavors and to provide an in-person look at the capability of our tools.

The DVCon U.S. Conference and Exhibition held in San Jose, California, holds a special place in my heart because it was the first industry conference I attended after starting my career in EDA. Every year I enjoy returning in order to see the latest verification advancements and to speak with those who are hard at work trying to improve verification efforts. Portable stimulus was a hot topic and it seemed like emulation was growing in popularity. This year we brought our Hardware Emulation Solutions (HES™) so that people could get an in-person look at our hardware. We showed off the speed benefits of emulation over traditional simulation by hooking up a UVM testbench to an in-house network-on-chip design running in our FPGA boards. As design sizes increase, I think emulation will become a more widely adopted solution to the simulation bottleneck.

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An Easier Path to Faster C with FPGAs

Monday, November 14th, 2016

For most scientists, what is inside a high-performance computing platform is a mystery. All they usually want to know is that a platform will run an advanced algorithm thrown at it. What happens when a subject matter expert creates a powerful model for an algorithm that in turn automatically generates C code that runs too slowly? FPGA experts have created an answer.

More and more, the general-purpose processor found in server-class platforms is yielding to something more optimized for the challenges of high-performance computing (HPC). Advanced algorithms like convolutional neural networks (CNNs), real-time analytics, and high-throughput sensor fusion are quickly overwhelming traditional hardware platforms. In some cases, HPC developers are turning to GPUs as co-processors and deploying parallel programming schemes – but at a massive cost in increased power consumption.

A more promising approach for workload optimization using considerably less power is hardware acceleration using FPGAs. Much as in the early days of FPGAs where they found homes in reconfigurable compute engines for signal processing tasks, technology is coming full circle and the premise is again gaining favor. The challenge with FPGA technology in the HPC community has always been how the scientist with little to no hardware background translates their favorite algorithm into a reconfigurable platform.
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It’s Time to Get Your University in Sync with Zynq: Insight From a College Student

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Today’s article is authored by Zach Nelson, Aldec FAE Intern. Zach is a Field Application Engineer Intern with Aldec, working in tandem with his fellow interns to develop hardware specific applications. He is set to graduate with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2017. His field interests include ASIC Design & Solid State Electronics.

It’s time for Universities to say goodbye to their outdated FPGA boards and introduce the Xilinx® Zynq™ chip. The Zynq chip is a device which combines an FPGA fabric with a processing unit. The Zynq chip is very similar to other FPGA devices, but it does have a few key advantages and features that can enhance your designs and increase its capabilities.

What can Zynq do?

The Zynq chip has applications in the design fields related to:

  • FPGA
    • Digital Design
    • VHDL/Verilog
  • Embedded Systems
    • Robotics
    • IoT
    • Factory Automation
  • Algorithm Implementations
    • Signal Processing
    • Video/Image Processing

FPGA

The Programmable-Logic can be used in isolation of the processor which allows it to be used like a general FPGA device which can help support the topics covered in any VHDL/Verilog class as well as Digital Design. It is much easier to facilitate growth and learning in a project-based curiculum when you have a device such as the Zynq to interface with.

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The hardest part of DO-254 is…

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

DO-254_imgThe hardest part of DO-254 is not the requirements. It’s not the design. It’s not the verification.

 

We just wrapped up this year’s 3-day DO-254 Practitioner’s Course, and each year I learn something new.  In this year’s training we had attendees from major aerospace companies including Curtiss Wright, Rolls Royce, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Thales and Woodward. It’s always a pleasure to meet the aerospace folks and learn about their projects, goals and challenges. This is the fifth year we’ve done these trainings and each time I pick up subtle points from the instructor showing his impressive expertise in the subject.

 

This year’s subtle point that I picked up is about the hardest part of DO-254.

 

The hardest part of DO-254 is the cultural change that needs to take place in order for the organization to successfully comply to DO-254.  This can be the make or break of the project.  It doesn’t matter if you have top-notch planning documents if no one will adhere to them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written 1000+ page requirements document, but the verification engineers cannot use them because the requirements are not verifiable. It doesn’t matter if you have the best design standards if your designers would not abide by them. It doesn’t matter if you have the latest verification tools but no one in your team understands how to satisfy tool assessment and qualification. It doesn’t matter if you have the most comprehensive review checklists if your reviewers will not use them and document the review activities and results.

 

DO-254 is a collection of industry best practices and all of its processes are tightly integrated, but it doesn’t matter if you have the DO-254 processes tightly in place if your team members will not abide by them.  The hardest part of DO-254 is the cultural change that needs to be embraced by all team members. The cultural change is what can get you.

 

Many organizations new to DO-254 are eager to jump on board and start applying DO-254 to their projects due to its high demand in the avionics industry.  You might be ready to take the leap and make the cultural change yourself, but is the rest of your team and organization ready for the cultural change?

 

If you’d like to learn more, or register for next year’s class, call us at 1+702-990-4400 or email training@aldec.com.

 

For the rest of this article, visit the Aldec Design and Verification Blog.

To Emulate or Prototype?

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Emulation-or-PrototypingRecently I read a Semiwiki article, Army of Engineers on Site Only Masks Weakness, in which author Jean-Marie Brunet of Mentor Graphics wrote that FPGA Prototyping requires an army of tech support engineers on-site to mask the weaknesses of FPGA prototyping flows. As the Tech Support Manager for Aldec Hardware Emulation Solutions, I have to admit I’ve never had to deploy an army onsite.

It is true that FPGA Prototyping is more challenging than emulation. Yet, for the time invested in prototype setup, developers are rewarded with a validation platform that is capable of running orders of magnitude faster than emulation.
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Reprogrammable, reprogrammable, reprogrammable: What’s great about FPGAs!

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

I-loveFPGAsI like FPGAs. My first experience with an FPGA was my university final year project where I demonstrated BIST with four Xilinx© 3000 devices; this was before FPGAs had JTAG built in. Filling up these devices with ViewDraw schematics required many hours in front of a terminal.   Fast track to today’s advances such as Xilinx UltraScale and Vivado HLx, and I hope you would agree things have moved on quite a bit.

 

Amid all this changes, however, there are some things that have remained constant. Those are the three things that are great about FPGAs: they are reprogrammable, reprogrammable, and, they are reprogrammable!

So how is this capability utilized? Here are three examples:

 

Electronic products using FPGAs:

I think it is important not look at FPGAs as some poor cousin of an ASIC. This view is from the days of LSI Logic and Xilinx marketing battles, when FPGAs were used for mopping up “glue logic”. Today an FPGA provides a massively parallel programmable digital platform with a lot of silicon IP, such as high-performance interfaces. This capability is widely used by many industries now; it is not solely driven by the volume of parts. Today, you even find FPGAs in consumer products.

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Verifying Large FPGAs Isn’t Easy

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

FPGA designers using VHDL have three choices: Stick with VHDL, switch to SystemVerilog, or.. use the best of both. This guest blog from Doug Perry, Senior Member Technical Staff at Doulos, outlines the pros and cons of each.

The latest crop of FPGA devices are enormous when compared to ASICs that were built not that long ago. Verifying these ASICs required detailed plans, multiple tools, and sometimes special languages. Verification was key because the cost of a respin was prohibitive.  FPGA designers using VHDL have three choices: Stick with VHDL, switch to SystemVerilog, or.. use the best of both. This guest blog from Doug Perry, Senior Member Technical Staff at Doulos, outlines the pros and cons of each.

The same is not necessarily true of FPGAs because they can simply be re-programmed when an error is found. However the cost of finding the error in the lab can still be very expensive. This is related to the fact that the number of LUTs available in the device has skyrocketed, but the number of IO pins has not. Therefore getting visibility into the inner workings of the device from outside becomes much more difficult. Finding the source of an error therefore also becomes increasingly difficult. To counteract this problem, designers need to find errors before the device gets into the lab. To do this they need to adopt ASIC-like verification methodologies.

Helping FPGA Designers get started with UVM

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015
Doulos has partnered with Aldec to deliver this Friday’s webinar, ‘Easier UVM: Helping FPGA Designers Get Started with UVM’ . Presented by Doulos CTO, John Aynsley, the 1 hour webinar includes live Q&A so it’s a great opportunity to find out how Easier UVM can work for you. The webinar includes examples from the Easier UVM Code Generator running under Aldec Riviera-PRO™.

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