I presented a tutorial about the “verification of virtual platforms models” at DVCon Europe last week. The tutorial was prepared by me and Ola Dahl at Ericsson, but Ola unfortunately could not attend and present his part – so I had to learn his slides and style and do my best to be an Ola stand-in (tall order, we really missed you there Ola!). The title maybe did not entirely describe the contents – it was more a discussion around how to think about correctness and in particular specifications vs implementations. The best part was the animated discussion that we got going in the room, including some new insights from the audience that really added to the presented content.
Updated: Included an important point on software correctness that I forgot in the first publication.
When discussing the design and integration of systems on chip and models of systems on chip, the Lego analogy is often brought up. The idea being that with Lego, anyone can put together anything and every component can be combined with all other components. Right. My recent building of Lego set 21327, Typewriter, makes me wonder if the people who talk about Lego-like construction have actually built anything from Legos in the past few decades.
When I recently turned 50, a friend of mine gave me a book that was about as old as me – Timesharing System Design Concepts, by Richard W Watson. The copyright date is 1970, but the publishing date found online 1971. The book covers the hardware support and software techniques needed to provide multiple users with simultaneous access to a computer system. Typically, using remote teletype terminals. It is a wonderful book, reflecting on the state of computer technology around 1970. It shows both how many of the basic concepts we still use today were already in use back then, but at the same time just how far we have evolved computing since.
The Design and Verification Conference Europe (DVCon Europe) took place back in late October 2020. In a normal year, we would add “in München, Germany” to the end of that sentence. But that is not how things were done in 2020. Instead, it was a virtual conference with world-wide attendance. Here are my notes on what I found the most interesting from the conference (for various reasons, this text did come out with a bit of delay).
It is also my last blog post written at Wind River; since January 18, I am working at Intel. I am working on ways to keep publishing texts about Simics and simulation, but the details are not yet clear.
When I started out doing computer science “for real” way back, the emphasis and a lot of the fun was in the basics of algorithms, optimizing code, getting complex trees and sorts and hashes right an efficient. It was very much about computing defined as processor and memory (with maybe a bit of disk or printing or user interface accessed at a very high level, and providing the data for the interesting stuff). However, as time has gone on, I have come to feel that this is almost too clean, too easy to abstract… and gone back to where I started in my first home computer, programming close to the metal.
Chip Design Magazine published an article by me in their August/September 2008, about Getting Software into the Hardware Design Loop. The article is about the technical and marketing aspects of how chip designers can get early feedback from software and systems designers, early in the hardware design process. The vehicle for this? Virtual platforms, obviously.
SystemC TLM-2.0 has just been released, and on the heels of that everyone in the EDA world is announcing various varieties of support. TLM-2.0-compliant models, tools that can run TLM-2.0 models, and existing modeling frameworks that are being updated to comply with the TLM-2.0 standard. All of this feeds a general feeling that the so-called Electronic System Level design market (according to Frank Schirrmeister of Synopsys, the term was coined by Gary Smith) is finally reaching a level of maturity where there is hope to grow the market by standards. This is something that has to happen, but it seems to be getting hijacked by a certain part of the market addressing the needs of a certain set of users.
There is more to virtual platforms than ESL. Much more. Remember the pure software people.
Edit: Maybe it is more correct to say “there is more to virtual platforms than SoC”, as that is what several very smart comments to this post has said. ESL is not necessarily tied to SoC, it is in theory at least a broader term. But currently, most tools retain an SoC focus.