Tech Design Forum has just published a detailed case study on getting started with virtual prototyping at Altera, using tools from our company, Synopsys. The programmable logic vendor harnessed the technique to develop its line of SoC FPGAs during the last 18 months. It completed the work ahead of schedule and is now bringing those products to market.
But, as many of you are already thinking, Altera is one of the big players. It has the resources to adopt a new development strategy and still meet its goals for specification and time-to-market. What about the rest of us?
There is obviously some truth in that, but one of the ramp-up techniques Altera used from our Synopsys virtual prototyping toolbox was what we call the Virtualizer Development Kit (VDKs). A fundamental idea behind the VDK is that it opens up this powerful design strategy to companies in not just Tier One, but all the tiers below. It is very much about virtual prototyping ‘for the masses’.
You can read about VDKs in detail on our web site, but first here’s a primer that tells you why you should.
As the name suggests, a VDK is meant to have very similar kick-starting and time-saving advantages to those you would expect from a software development kit.
So, the kit comes pre-packaged with a complete reference prototype, some sample software, an installer and some tools. At the base level, a SW developer can install it on a system, boot it up, and straightaway start developing drivers and use the VDK to bring up software.
Immediately, any project can leverage the benefit of getting software development started without having to wait for a full prototype. Many of our customers are already using VDKs to do this and bring products to market faster, shortening critical time-to-revenue.
I want to stress that the VDK is a foundation and not a straitjacket. The kit is specifically designed so that you can progressively modify the reference design to make it more and more like the end-target. It is thus tailored not just for early software development, but to encourage hardware-software co-design and architectural refinement.
Many companies find this further benefit very appealing because they don’t want to have to start from scratch – they don’t have the wherewithal. However, they do recognize the benefits of earlier and more integrated methodologies.
With a VDK, users can start with the reference design and take out some pieces, modify some others and use some more. That cuts the modeling and design time.
Even Tier 1s will find the VDK approach valuable as the first starting point to tackle a new processor even while building their own custom VDK for their specific SoC. This accelerates the starting point for their SW development and exploration to an earlier and easier point.
And, the same VDK can be the basis for a prototype you can go on to share with key partners and customers, allowing you to build out a new product’s ecosystem before final silicon returns from the fab.
The VDK is just part of a whole virtual prototyping infrastructure that we have built and continue to build out at Synopsys. We have a services organization that can help you implement not just the right virtual prototype but also develop a strategy for its ongoing use. We also recently launched TLM Central as a resource for off-the-shelf models that will save you the time of ‘reinventing’ them internally.
We’ll specifically take a deeper look at how you can exploit TLM Central in a few weeks. But it all forms part of our fundamental belief that the obstacles to mass market adoption of virtual prototyping have been swept away. Rather, the technique cuts project time and allows you to focus more on the differentiation within your products that represents real profits.
Nithya A. Ruff is Director of Product Marketing for Virtual Prototyping Solutions at Synopsys.