I’ve been thinking about my 6.5 years at Mentor’s emulation division, and looking back, I have seen tremendous changes in many things; customers, products, and verification methods — but probably the biggest change I notice is the sheer scale in our portfolio of emulation solutions we now offer. Back in 2005, we had a handful of them, whereas now we offer around fifty, covering applications such as video/audio, networking, wireless, storage, memories, CPUs, and bus protocol standards.
An Italian colleague calls them “solution tomatoes”, because our customers use them with emulation in the same way tomatoes are used in Italian cooking — everywhere! That demands a big effort from us, not just to maintain support for existing protocol standards, but also to keep an eye out for the emerging standards our leading-edge emulation customers need for the verification of their complex SoCs.
About a year ago, we started a new area — virtual solutions. For years, customers have craved a software solution with the same functionality as in-circuit emulation (ICE) hardware applications, but without the hardware itself — since the latter is troublesome to set up, limits the flexibility of deployment across multiple teams, and can require a lot of management, especially in cabling to the emulator. A few years ago I visited a customer’s lab and was amazed by the setup required for the dozens of hardware solutions they had connected to our Veloce emulator. I was reminded of a TV ad I saw years ago with Monty Python’s John Cleese, who was promoting a new hi-fi/TV system, saying the benefits were that “you don’t have a plateful of spaghetti hanging out the back.” How true. It’s a pity we couldn’t offer a software version back then for those customers.
So the virtual lab idea was born, with software-only solutions providing the same functionality as traditional ICE products. These are now coming on-line at Mentor for important applications such as video/audio, networking, bus protocols, and so on. We named these liberating technologies VirtuaLAB. It satisfies our customers’ requests for a virtual lab to conduct their verification, using large, server-based Veloce emulators to deliver massive numbers of verification cycles from a remote center. Users can sit at their desks and perform all the required setup, control, test, debug, and analysis tasks without ever having to touch any hardware.
VirtuaLAB is a tremendous step forward. It delivers an environment that is less error-prone during setup and reproducible and shareable across verification teams and multiple applications. So, thanks to this innovation, verification of multi-chip standards has come a long way in 6.5 years — and there’s no more spaghetti hanging out the back of the emulator.