Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Tuesday, March 10th, 2015
Last May, I published two blog posts on the presentations made at a “Decoding Formal Club” event hosted by the smart folks from Oski Technology at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. With everything else going on, I didn’t manage to make it to another of their regular meetings until last week. The first event of 2015 was very interesting, so again I’m returning to the popular topic of formal analysis and playing reporter. The line between media and blogging is rather thin these days anyway.
This edition of Decoding Formal featured three talks, one an end-user case study and the other two instructional in nature from well-known formal experts. I found all three worthwhile and will do my best to communicate some of the main points made. I also have to mention the final presentation, more a performance than a talk, by the inimitable and irrepressible Clifford Stoll. Lately he’s been manufacturing and selling Klein bottles, which you may remember from a geometry teacher trying to mess with your mind.
Thursday, March 5th, 2015
In last week’s blog post on The Breker Treker we previewed this week’s Design and Verification Conference (DVCon) in San Jose, the leading industry event for verification professionals. We had a really good time there, finishing up just this afternoon. We always enjoy DVCon, but this week was even more fun than usual. We met attendees from an amazing range of companies designing SoCs, from simple microcontrollers to some of the largest FPGAs and custom chips on the planet.
Three aspects of the show really stood out: intense interest in cache coherency verification, considerable curiosity about the Accellera Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG), and the number of people who started the conversation with “I’ve heard good things about Breker from a colleague” or “I was told that I really need to check you out.” Let’s discuss what each of these trends means for the industry and speculate about the impact on Breker.
Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
Most of the time when we blog about upcoming conferences, report live from an ongoing show, or summarize one that’s just finished, we see a significant spike in readership. Clearly our followers want to keep up with what’s happening in trade shows, conferences, and other industry events. It may also be the case that tighter travel budgets have reduced the ability to attend conferences in person, driving all the more interest in reading the news from the field. A few weeks ago, we discussed DesignCon and explained how it had evolved to include almost no verification content.
Next week is the annual Design and Verification Conference (DVCon) in San Jose, an event that we have covered in considerable detail in several popular posts in the past. As we have discussed, this conference has become the main way to keep up on what’s happening in the ever-changing world of functional verification. We encourage you to check out their Web site and the complete program. The topics include the UVM, SystemVerilog, SystemC, code generation, multi-language, mixed-signal, formal techniques, coverage metrics, and low-power verification.
Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
In any industry dominated by a few large companies, it is important for the smaller players to ensure that their products work well with the broader solutions from the majors. Recognizing this need, and sometimes encouraged by legal action, the large companies develop partnership programs to enable and even foster integration with their solutions. All this is true for the EDA business, where the “Big 3” work closely with many smaller vendors for the sake of their mutual customers.
In Breker’s case, we generate SoC test cases that run on a variety of software and hardware platforms. We do not build any of those platforms ourselves but we need to verify that our test cases can run properly on them. Accordingly, we are members of several important partnership programs and we work closely with other vendors to find and fix any interoperability issues before our customers run into them. In this week’s post, we focus on how we work with Synopsys, the EDA market leader.
Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
As you may have seen this morning, the EDA standards organization Accellera officially announced the formation of the Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG). This group has the charter to “develop the electronic industry’s first standard for portable test and stimulus. When completed and adopted, this standard will enable a single specification that will be portable from IP to full system and across multiple target implementations.”
Regular readers will note that this wording sounds very familiar. At Breker, we’ve been talking about vertical reuse from IP to SoC and horizontal reuse across all verification platforms for years. At times we’ve felt like pioneers with arrows in our back. The formation of the PSWG is a validation that we’ve been heading in the right direction. We’re excited to see the industry embracing the challenges of SoC verification and starting to work on a new standard to address these challenges.
Thursday, February 5th, 2015
Two recent blog posts discussed what you should run when you first map your system-on-chip (SoC) design into an emulation platform and when you have your first fabricated chips from the foundry in your bring-up lab. We pointed out that trying to boot an operating system and run applications should not be the first step because production software is not designed to find and debug lingering hardware design errors. We recommended running the multi-threaded, multi-processor, self-verifying C test cases generated and optimized for hardware platforms by our TreSoC-Si product.
As you may know, TrekSoC uses the same graph-based scenario models as TrekSoC-Si, but optimizes the generated test cases for virtual prototypes, simulation, and simulation acceleration. In this post, we ask a similar question: what should you run in simulation when you first have the RTL for your SoC assembled and ready to be verified? Of course our answer will be the test cases generated by TrekSoC. However, there are some advantages of simulation over hardware platforms that foster a more extensive methodology for verification with Breker’s products.
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
One of the most popular posts in the history of The Breker Trekker was one discussing which conferences were most useful for verification engineers. I mentioned that Breker exhibited at the annual Design and Verification Conference (DVCon) in San Jose, and we’ve since published several popular posts about that show. It remains the most important event for us, our customers, and the functional verification industry in general. We will be there again in March, and will provide more information in an upcoming post.
I also mentioned the DesignCon show, held annually in Santa Clara, but did not list it among those that we attend. I always go and walk the floor for an hour or two to say hello to old friends and to see what’s new. However, Breker does not exhibit at this show and is highly unlikely to do so unless there are significant changes in its focus and attendance. This is not a criticism of the show, just an observation. Since DesignCon is happening this week, I thought that it might be fun to review its history and how it has changed.
Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
Last week’s blog post raised the question of what you should run when you first map your system-on-chip (SoC) design into an emulation platform. We pointed out that trying to boot an operating system and applications immediately was a challenge because these are complex pieces of production software not designed to find lingering hardware design errors or to debug such errors easily even if detected. On many projects, the production software isn’t even available early enough to be used for design verification.
We strongly recommended running the multi-threaded, multi-processor, self-verifying C test cases generated by our Trek family of products. These “bare metal” test cases run on your SoC’s embedded processors at every stage of the project. TreSoC-Si specifically generates test cases tuned for emulation and FPGA prototype platforms. But what should you run when your fabricated chip first arrives back from the foundry? The answer is the same. TrekSoC-Si also generates test cases for silicon, ideal for use in your bring-up lab. Let’s explore this idea a bit more.
Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Many of you are probably familiar with Lauro Rizzatti, who has written countless articles on the value of emulation for verifying system-on-chip (SoC) designs and been an occasional guest blogger here on The Breker Trekker. Lauro recently published an article in Electronic Engineering Times that really caught our attention. We could not possibly agree more with the title: “A Great Match: SoC Verification & Hardware Emulation” and, as we read through the article, were very pleased with the points he made.
Emulation involves mapping the RTL chip design into a platform that runs much like an actual chip, albeit considerably more slowly. The industry is not always consistent on its terminology, but generally if the platform is connected to a software simulation it’s being used as a simulation accelerator. In this case, the design’s inputs and outputs are connected to the simulation testbench much as they would be when running software simulation of the RTL. In emulation, there’s no simulator or testbench, and so the question becomes what to run on the design.
Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Late last year, we published a series of blog posts discussing how the world of large chip designs is moving toward multi-processor, cache-coherent SoCs. This trend is due to several sub-trends, including the addition of one or more processors, the growth in number of processors, the use of shared memory, and the addition of caches to improve memory performance. The result of this movement is clear: large chips are becoming more difficult to verify than ever.
Verification teams face challenges at every turn. It’s hard to run a complete SoC-level model in simulation, especially if the team wants to boot an operating system and run production applications. This may be feasible in emulation or FPGA prototyping platforms, but these cost a lot of money. What we’re starting to see is the truly stunning trend that some teams are taping out SoCs without ever having run the entire design together. This means that full-chip verification and debug isn’t happening until first silicon is in the lab. Let’s explore why this is happening.