No more spaghetti

By Richard Pugh |  1 Comment  |  Posted: April 25, 2012
Topics/Categories: EDA - Verification  |  Tags: ,  | Organizations:

Richard PughRichard Pugh is the product marketing manager for the Mentor Graphics Emulation Division. He has more than 25 years of experience in electronic design automation, IP, ASIC, and SoC verification, having held positions in application engineering, product marketing, and business development with companies including ViewLogic and Synopsys.

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.

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