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Breaking The Three Laws
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    Breaking the Three Laws is dedicated to discussing technically challenging ASIC prototyping problems and sharing solutions.
  • About the Author

    Michael (Mick) Posner joined Synopsys in 1994 and is currently Director of Product Marketing for Synopsys' FPGA-Based Prototyping Solutions. Previously, he has held various product marketing, application consultant and technical marketing manager positions at Synopsys. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Electronic and Computer Engineering from the University of Brighton, England.

Archive for the 'ASIC Verification' Category

Why Do You Prototype? If You Don’t Know I Can Tell You

Posted by Michael Posner on 30th January 2015

I was forwarded this user quote and I thought I would share as it was so heartwarming for me

The design came up on HAPS in less than two weeks and we found a rather serious bug early in testing.  This is the bug that would have cost the company dearly if it wasn’t found until later in the development cycle.

It’s short and sweet and communicates the HUGE value that FPGA-Based Prototyping delivers.  This note reminded me that a while back I did an internal analysis of the value of HAPS FPGA-based prototyping in respect to the various use modes. The use modes I examined was Functional Verification, HW/SW Integration, Firmware Development, System Validation and Software Development. First I created a baseline score for HAPS in respect to various user requirements. This list stays consistent across all use modes.

  • Early Availability
  • Initial Design Setup
  • Iteration Turnaround Time
  • Execution Speed
  • Capacity
  • Deployment (Ease of/Cost of)
  • Accuracy
  • HW Debug Visibility
  • SW Debug Visibility
  • IO

How the scoring works, 1 = Sub-Optimal, 10 = Excels. To score I created a set of definitions per requirement and using real data which compared the results to other technologies thus to objectively score. The scores are mapped into a radar chart. Here is the scoring baseline for HAPS. I should point out that its subjective but I tried to be as data driven as possible. If anything I might have been a little harsh on HAPS to be fair.

HAPS Value, baseline scoring in respect to capability strengths

At the same time and using the same list of requirements I scored the NEEDS of the use mode. For example the user needs for software development are pictured here. Note the dotted line.

Baseline requirements mapped into radar chart in respect to the needs of software development

The baseline needs were mapped for each of the desired use mode. Then it’s a simple case of overlaying the results of the baseline value score of HAPS against the use mode. It’s a multiplication of the value times the need. This way it clearly shows where there is synergy of a need and as strength.

Starting with Functional Verification

HAPS Values Mapped to the Functional Verification Use mode

Remember the dotted line represents the user needs within the use mode of functional verification and the solid line represents the relative strengths of HAPS. Within a radar chart it’s easy to see the matching requirements and HAPS strengths. It’s clear to see that while HAPS does bring value to functional verification it’s definitely not the best technology for the use case. Hey, we all knew this already. A simulator such as VCS or emulator such as ZeBu is a far better choice for functional verification as they deliver on the key needs of the use case such as early availability, debug visibility, capacity etc. But I also know that HAPS is used in this use mode as the performance enables a huge amount of tests to be run in a short amount of time flushing out those hard to find RTL bugs.

Now lets review the HW/SW Integration use mode

HAPS Values mapped into the HW/SW use mode

Immediately it’s clear that the value of HAPS FPGA-based prototyping is far better matched to the requirements for HW/SW Integration. HW/SW Integration is typically the point at which FPGA-based prototyping is deployed in development. As more and more RTL blocks are coming together and the volume of software has become significant then the additional performance that HAPS FPGA-based prototyping delivers is needed to execute in a reasonable timeframe.

Now onto Firmware Development

HAPS Values mapped against the needs for firmware development

FPGA-based prototyping enables the use of real physical interfaces using the real interface blocks such as DesignWare IP. This means that the hardware aware firmware development is a key use case for HAPS FPGA-Based prototyping and this is represented in how well the values match the use case needs. The real physical IO, actual RTL blocks combined with the high performance operation make HAPS FPGA-based prototypes one of the best firmware development platforms next to the real silicon. Actually I would be bold enough to say better than the real silicon as once you have silicon its too late to fix RTL bugs!

System Validation

HAPS Values mapped against the needs of system validation use mode

For the same reasons as firmware development it’s clear to see that HAPS FPGA-Based prototyping is the best technology to address the needs of System Validation use mode. In System validation you will be running lots of software against the hardware, doing interoperability and compliance testing against real hardware. No other technology enables you to do this, PRE-SILICON

Finally the software development use mode

HAPS Values mapped against the needs of software development

This is the traditional and most well know use mode for FPGA-based prototyping. Again the HAPS values map very well against the needs and requirements of Software Development. Really the only area in question is capacity. I thought it would be interesting to add the benefits of Hybrid Prototyping into the scoring for this particular use model.

HAPS Hybrid Prototyping mapped against the needs of Software development

Hybrid Prototyping, the combination of HAPS FPGA-based and Virtualizer Virtual Prototyping makes for a powerful platform for software development. Hybrid Prototyping combines the accuracy, performance and real world IO of HAPS with the capacity and differentiated debug capabilities of Virtualizer. I can tell you that a number of customers have adopted Hybrid Prototyping to improve their early software development activities. A number of these have been able to accelerate their software development and validation to a point where the software run on the real silicon on day one! Hey bonus, the green radar chart line looks like a fish, do you see it?

Anyway, there you go, the value of HAPS across multiple use modes. Is this consistent with your scoring of FPGA-based prototyping in respect to your project usage?

Posted in ASIC Verification, FPGA-Based Prototyping, HW/SW Integration, Hybrid Prototyping, In-System Software Validation, IP Validation, Milestones, Project management, Real Time Prototyping, System Validation, Use Modes | No Comments »

Coming To A Lab Soon: Xilinx VU440 FPGA Devices

Posted by Michael Posner on 16th January 2015

Xilinx Summary of the new UltraScale VU440 FPGA device capabilities for prototypers

In late 2013 I blogged about the newly announced Xilinx UltraScale devices, the VU440 specifically that will be the largest FPGA device on the market: http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2013/12/xilinx-fpga%E2%80%99s-for-fpga-based-prototyping/

Well this week Xilinx officially announced that they have shipped the first samples of the VU440 devices: http://press.xilinx.com/2015-01-15-Xilinx-Delivers-the-Industrys-First-4M-Logic-Cell-Device-Offering-50M-Equivalent-ASIC-Gates-and-4X-More-Capacity-than-Competitive-Alternatives

Snippet from Xilinx Press release on the VU440 device and the fact that Synopsys received the first device samples

And check out who received the first of these samples…………………………… ok, you don’t need to read it, Synopsys did…….. We have optimized every generation of our HAPS prototyping systems for the highest system performance, greatest capacity while adding significant capabilities on top delivering prototyping specific features. We all know the FPGA device is a required component within the FPGA-based prototyping hardware but it’s not what defines or makes the solution useful. Anyone can slap an FPGA on a board but this does not help a prototyper as the device alone does not deliver the capabilities they require. Prototypers rely on a solution which includes a software implementation tool flow, integration between hardware and software accelerating time to operation, built in capabilities such as high speed pin multiplexing and high visibility debug to ease bug hunting while being modular and scalable. (side note: Synopsys offers exactly this…. just in case you didn’t know)

I recommend you also check out the VU440 demo video. It stars my friend Kirk from Xilinx who introduces the new device and the demo running ten ARM Cortex-A9 CPU’s, pretty impressive. http://www.xilinx.com/products/silicon-devices/fpga/virtex-ultrascale.html#uniquePlayer1

Over the coming weeks I’m going to focus my blogs on the capabilities that the new Xilinx UltraScale devices deliver and the impact they have to prototypers. As noted above, an FPGA alone does not deliver FPGA-based prototyping so I will discuss how the device capabilities are expected to be integrated and leveraged delivering a solution.

Oh, and just because Synopsys has received Xilinx sample devices don’t expect a new HAPS next week. Delivering a solution requires hardware development, software development and a huge amount of validation. But I’m confident that when you are ready to adopt, Synopsys will be ready to deliver…..

Posted in Admin and General, ASIC Verification, Bug Hunting, Debug, Early Software Development, FPGA-Based Prototyping, HW/SW Integration, In-System Software Validation, Man Hours Savings, Milestones, Technical, Tips and Traps | No Comments »

Unlocking the Secrets of ASIC Clock Conversion

Posted by Michael Posner on 13th December 2014

open-safe

Warning: Technical Content!

I read an online article this week which flagged an issue with FPGA-based prototyping, clock conversion. Clock conversion is one of the most important aspects to successful prototyping and this week’s blog is dedicated to sharing information enabling you to be successful. Specifically I will cover automated Gated Clock Conversion, GCC, as the user realizes the highest benefits. With automated gated clock conversion you don’t need to maintain a separate RTL code branch for prototyping, you use the golden RTL source. Clock conversion done right ensures the prototype runs at the highest performance functionally equivalent to the source. If you look at the data from the Channel Media survey that Synopsys had conducted you see that for large FPGA-based prototyping, clock conversion is a major challenge.

Clock Conversion, the #1 challenge facing prototypers who do larger than 10M ASIC gate prototyping

Hold on, I forgot to cover why clock conversion is needed for FPGA-based prototyping. It’s one of the three laws, ASIC are not the same as FPGA’s, specifically in this case FPGA’s do not have the same clock resources like ASIC’s do. ASIC designs often use clock gating to reduce dynamic power and have complex clock logic to generate numerous internal clocks. In the ASIC flow, users do Clock Tree Synthesis to balance all the clock paths between the sources and destinations and avoid clock skews between them. The problem is the number of ASIC clocks in the design typically exceed the number of global clock lines available in the FPGAs. There are a limited number of dedicated global clock lines in FPGA devices and Global clock lines cannot accommodate clock generating and gating logic. Thus GCC is needed to convert these ASIC clock structures to FPGA comparable structures. You could do this manually but that’s time consuming and error prone.

One of the three laws of FPGA-based prototyping, ASIC clocks exceed the number of FPGA clocks

In Emulation oversampling type techniques are used to solve this problem, this is where all clocks are resolved to one synchronous clock source and all clocks are driven from derivatives of this clock. The benefit of this technique is that the conversion is fast and practically any type of clock tree structure can be handled. The main two disadvantages are #1 you tank performance as the system frequency is dictated by the slowest clock. #2 the design loses some fidelity as all clocks are synchronous to each other which may not reflect the true asynchronous clock behavior hiding issues in clock domain crossing circuits. Techniques similar to this such as the HAPS Clock Optimization in ProtoCompiler (I think I’ll blog about HAPS Clock Optimization in the future but for today I’ll focus on Gated Clock Conversion) which map clocks to HAPS hardware resources, are getting popular in FPGA-based prototyping as they can help reduce the time to first prototype enabling a prototype to be handed off to the software teams quickly. It will not have the high performance expected by the software engineers but it’s available quickly, handles almost any ASIC clock structures and this gives the prototype engineers a little breathing space to complete the high performance version.

Oversampling, the typical method used by emulation to handle clocks

Gated Clock Conversion, GCC, converts ASIC clock structures to FPGA friendly structures mapped to FPGA clock resources. GCC also needs to handle timing violations due to clock skew created because of clock gating logic. These violations are introduced on paths where the source and destination flops are driven by different clocks. Data from the source may reach the destination quicker/later than the clock resulting in hold/setup time violations in many paths. GCC has to ensure that there is no clock skew between two synchronous clock domains. The GCC capabilities of ProtoCompiler directly addresses both these conversion challenges in a fully automated fashion. ProtoCompiler maps to FPGA resources and moves the generated clock and gated clock logic from the clock pin of the sequential elements to the enable pins. This includes supporting implementation of these structures across block boundaries and across multiple FPGAs as part of partitioning.

Hold time violation example

Tool support of automated gated clock conversion is not a milestone it’s a journey as ASIC coding styles are continually evolving and the tools need to keep pace. ProtoCompiler has an extensive portfolio of supported structures including, but not limited to, Generated Clock, Gated Clock, Integrated Clock Gating Cells, Complex Sequential Cells, Instantiated Cells, Mixed Async Controls, Data Latches and MUX / XOR structures. With the correct clock constraints ProtoCompiler should automatically identify these gated clock structures and convert them to FPGA friendly structures. Below is an example of generated clock identification and the result of the automatic conversion.

Generated clock conversion example showing the result after ProtoCompiler automated conversion

In summary clock conversion is essential to successful prototyping. The ProtoCompiler Clock Conversion capabilities moves the generated clock and gated clock logic from the clock pin of the sequential elements to the enable pins, allowing sequential elements to be tied directly to the source clock, removing skew issues and reducing the number of clock sources in the design making it FPGA-based prototype friendly. Automated Gated Clock Conversion is just one of the many capabilities that ProtoCompiler delivers and is essential for prototypers.

Summary list of ProtoCompiler capabilites and benefits

Don’t forget that the FPGA-based Prototyping Methodology Manual, FPMM, has a section to help understand clock conversion and other ASIC design structure handling. Last week I had the pleasure to hang out with Rene Richter, one of the authors of the FPMM. Rene signed a book copy for me, this copy could be yours if you comment and answer the following question

How many HAPS systems has Synopsys shipped and to how many customers?

A signed copy of the FPMM

Answer the question by comment and if you get the answer right I will contact you to get your shipping addresss.

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Posted in ASIC Verification, FPGA-Based Prototyping, Man Hours Savings, Technical, Tips and Traps | 2 Comments »

Recap of what you missed, impactful blogs from the last 3 months

Posted by Michael Posner on 5th December 2014

WOW

During a customer meeting last week I found myself explaining many different topic’s all of which I have blogged about over the last couple of months. I suddenly realized that while I blog every week that many of you might not get time to read them every week and miss important information. Below is a list of what I think are the impactful blogs from the last couple of months, just in case you missed them.

The Top 3 Myths of Prototyping – BUSTED. This was a particularly popular blog as it highlights the state of FPGA-based prototyping addressing capacity, time to first prototype operation and debug.

http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2014/09/top-3-myths-of-fpga-based-prototyping-busted/

Solving the ASIC Prototype Partition Problem. Discusses a Synopsys whitepaper on partitioning of an SoC/ASIC to FPGA-based prototype using ProtoCompiler. ProtoCompiler generates a partition solution in minutes, (under 10 minutes in most cases).

http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2014/08/solving-the-asic-prototype-partition-problem/

Abstract Partition Flow Advantage. Sort of goes hand in hand with the solving partition problems blog. This blog focuses on how to use an abstract partition flow to create the highest performance and optimal hardware interconnect and software partition for a given SoC/ASIC.

http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2014/10/abstract-partition-flow-advantage

The Secret Ninja-Fu for Higher Performance Prototype Operation. It’s no secret how to achieve the highest performance prototype, you need an integrated solution and the ability to tailor the hardware inter-FPGA interconnect to the needs of the SoC/ASIC being modeled. Dedicated “fixed” traces just don’t cut it, they restrict the platforms flexibility and introduce interconnect bottlenecks.

http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2014/04/the-secret-ninja-fu-for-higher-performance-prototype-operation/

3 Phase Approach to Successful Prototyping. Pretty much the bible of successful prototyping. Follow these three commandments will lead to successful prototyping.

http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2014/10/3-phase-approach-to-successful-prototyping/

Going vertical for all the right reasons. Blog on developing and the advantages of vertical daughter boards. One of our customers read this post and then went on to develop a stack of custom vertical daughter boards for their specific needs. I’m happy that my blog helped this customer to be successful.

http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2014/07/going-vertical-for-all-the-right-reasons/

Anyway, this should be enough to keep you busy for a week.

Posted in ASIC Verification, Bug Hunting, Daughter Boards, Debug, HW/SW Integration, IP Validation, Man Hours Savings, Use Modes | 1 Comment »

Dr. Lauro Rizzatti please read my blog, your information is out of date

Posted by Michael Posner on 7th November 2014

–//–//–//–//–//–//–//–//–//–//–
Dear Dr. Lauro Rizzatti,

   I enjoyed reading one of your recent articles http://electronicdesign.com/eda/hardware-emulation-weapon-mass-verification but was dismayed that you were still quoting limitations from the early years of FPGA-based prototyping. I recommend you refresh your knowledge and read my recent blog on the top myths of FPGA-based prototyping busted. http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2014/09/top-3-myths-of-fpga-based-prototyping-busted/

I’m looking forward to future articles integrating the latest information.

Best Regards

Mick Posner
–//–//–//–//–//–//–//–//–//–//–

Just in case you don’t take the time to read Dr. Lauro’s article the three points of out of date information were on capacity supported, time to first prototype operation and debug.

Quote “Even in the largest configurations, they address designs with about 100 million gates.”

– New Data Point, Synopsys HAPS supports 288 Million ASIC gates

Quote “ Conversely, very long setup time to map a design into a proto board and rather limited design visibility are its two main drawbacks.”

– New Data Point, Synopsys HAPS and ProtoCompiler software accelerated time to first prototype and delivers high visibility debug.

When you correct these mistakes the radar graph in the article changes quite a lot.

Just in case you missed my blog on the top myths here is a direct link to it again: http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2014/09/top-3-myths-of-fpga-based-prototyping-busted/

Posted in ASIC Verification, Debug, Man Hours Savings | Comments Off

SW Dev Env using ARM-based daughter board directly vs. Hybrid Prototype

Posted by Michael Posner on 24th October 2014

Amazingly this is a REAL animal, it's called a Liger

This week’s blog is a bit of a mashup (Yes that is a real word, a mashup, in development, is something that uses content from more than one source to create a single new offering) as I am pulling together two topics to create one. The #1 usage case of prototyping is for early software development. You can do this very early, pre-RTL using Virtual Prototypes, later in the design cycle with FPGA-based Prototypes but it’s the bit in the middle that this week’s blog examines.

The bit in the middle is typically unit level or IP validation with the goal of early software development before the rest of the subsystem is available. The DesignWare IP Prototyping Kits : http://www.synopsys.com/IP/ip-accelerated/Pages/ip-prototyping-kits.aspx were designed to address the need for immediate productivity and early software development for DesignWare IP’s. The kit includes the actual DesignWare IP modeled on HAPS-DX and an ARC based Software Development Platform

The ARC Software Development Platform based DesignWare IP Prototyping kit

The question which has been raised a couple of times is what if you are not using an ARC processor in your end SoC? At this point I usually start probing a little more as to what type of software is being developed, if its physical layer and processor specific then yes the ARC software development platform is not going to work for you. If it’s higher layer software then typically the software engineer does not care as it’s layers above and abstracted from the physical execution machine. But what do you do in the case where you need physical layer and processor specific software development?

Lets use the example that you want to enable early software development on an ARM-based system representation and you still want to validate your design under test modeled on a FPGA-based prototype. The problem is that your SoC engineers have not complete the subsystem design and/or you don’t have access to the RTL to put the processor subsystem on the FPGA-based prototype along with your DUT.

One solution would be to do similar to what Synopsys did with the DesignWare IP Kits and that is connect the FPGA-based prototyping platform to a physical daughter board containing an ARM-based subsystem. One of the possible ways to do this is to use an off-the-shelf Xilinx Zynq based daughter board. The Zynq device includes a Dual Cortex-A9 MPCore processor subsystem and provides the ability to connect this to the FPGA-based prototyping platform via an AXI tunnel across typically FMC connectors. This is true for the HAPS series where you have the ability to connect the Zynq based board to HAPS via FMC cables.

Xilinx Zynq ARM-based subsystem including Dual Cortex-A9 MPCore's

Great right? Hummm…. Seems too good to be true…… Yes, you are right, this use mode is a trade-off. While you can execute ARM-based code against your prototype you are not running the software against YOUR ARM-based subsystem. You are stuck with the processor configuration hard-coded into the Zynq device which you know will never match your SoC subsystem. Also, in the case of the Zynq it’s the 32bit processors not the 64bit versions. There is a better way to enable early software development using a processor subsystem which is a better match to your SoC’s subsystem, it’s the Hybrid Prototyping approach.

I’ve blogged about this before, one such case was Zoro’s use of Hybrid Prototype for early software development for USB 3.0 : http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2014/06/zoro-delivers-hybrid-prototype-for-early-software-development/

The advantage of using a Hybrid Prototype rather than a fixed hardware daughter board is that the virtual processor based subsystem can be tailored to more specifically match the SoC subsystem design. New to virtual prototyping? Don’t worry, Synopsys provides ARM Virtual Development Kits (VDK’s) : http://www.synopsys.com/Systems/VirtualPrototyping/Virtualizer-Development/Pages/vdk-family-arm.aspx to jump start your development. These VDK’s can be used at the starting point for your customization to match your SoC’s need. This full virtual environment is expanded to a Hybrid Prototype with the use of the off-the-shelf transactors which are a bridge between the TLM virtual and the RTL hardware systems. You are not sacrificing performance either as the Synopsys Hybrid Prototyping solution enables asynchronous operation between the Virtualizer and HAPS ensuring that the software env executes at speed as well as the hardware env which is typically required to keep real world interfaces alive.

Hybrid Prototype. ARM-based Virtual Development Env running with the HAPS-based prototype

What a mashup !!! It’s clear to me that Hybrid Prototyping is a far better solution to enable early software development as you can customize the processor subsystem to more precisely match the SoC. This way the software code created and executed on the prototype is a closer or direct match to the software which will run on the SoC.

Posted in ASIC Verification, Daughter Boards, DWC IP Prototyping Kits, Early Software Development, Hybrid Prototyping, IP Validation | 1 Comment »

New Sexy Videos Posted

Posted by Michael Posner on 3rd October 2014

Picture representing that this weeks blog is about new HAPS videos posted to the Synopsys website

We have just uploaded a stack of product videos. Below is a list of the latest three. (I think they are sexy!!)

•             Prototyping Imagination’s PowerVR Series 6XT dual-cluster 64-core GPU with Synopsys HAPS and ProtoCompiler

A video showing the multi-FPGA system used to model IMG’s GPU. The system has real-time video out for visual inspection of the images

•             Speed IP/RTL Block Bring-up and SoC Validation with HAPS-DX

A video explaining the methodology, flow and capabilities which enable a block to be prototyped and debugged on HAPS-DX and seamlessly integrated into an SoC prototype on HAPS-70

•             Synopsys ProtoCompiler for RTL Debug with HAPS Systems

A video showing the new ProtoCompiler debug capabilities including multi-FPGA with deep trace

They can all be found (plus more) here: http://www.synopsys.com/Systems/FPGABasedPrototyping/Pages/Videos.aspx (Sexy right?)

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about my 20 years at Synopsys. Well this week one of the Synopsys sales people was nice enough in their own time to create a depiction of what I look like now vs. 20 years ago. Below you can see the then and now depiction.

FAKE depiction of what I might have looked like after 20 years at Synopsys

THANKS, Mr. Synopsys sales person…. You know who you are…. I know where you sit :)

To set the record straight below is a picture I snapped off this week after a haircut.

Real picture of me, selfie taken on 10-2014

No supermodel for sure but I still got my hair…

 

Posted in ASIC Verification, Bug Hunting, Debug, DWC IP Prototyping Kits, Early Software Development, Humor, IP Validation, Man Hours Savings | 1 Comment »

Top 3 Myths of FPGA-based prototyping BUSTED

Posted by Michael Posner on 13th September 2014

Myth Busted

This week I’ve spent most of my time busting the top three myths of FPGA-Based Prototyping, specifically in respect to the HAPS solution based. The top 3 are:-

  • Capacity limited to less than 100 Million ASIC Gates
  • It takes months to get prototype working
  • Limited debug visibility

These myths are cast backs from the dark ages of FPGA-based prototyping, also known as BMWS, Before Mick Worked at Synopsys, which was a very long time ago, refer to this blog for details http://blogs.synopsys.com/breakingthethreelaws/2014/09/how-to-shaped-the-eda-landscape-and-the-world-we-live-in/

Lets take the first myth: Capacity limited to less than 100 Million ASIC Gates. The HAPS-70 series of FPGA-based prototyping hardware is based on the Xilinx Virtex-7 2000T FPGA’s. Synopsys rates each of these as 12 million ASIC gates, which is a conservative measure coming from years of experience in synthesizing ASIC RTL to FPGA. When the HAPS-70 series was launched back in 2012 Synopsys supported the automated and seamless integration of up to 12 FPGA’s which is equivalent to 144 Million ASIC Gates…. Myth BUSTED !!!! The unique HAPS architecture with its intelligent flexible interconnect architecture (rather than fixed PCB traces), combined with the HAPS proprietary high speed time domain multiplexing, enables the multi-FPGA system to be tailored to the SoC design under test achieving the highest of performance.

But wait…. There’s more….

HAPS External Clock Distribution Board, HAPS-ECDB, automated the integration of up to 24 Xilinx Virtex-7 2000T FPGA's

At the same time that Synopsys launched ProtoCompiler, automated prototyping software for HAPS, we also launched support for up to 288 Million ASIC gates, 24 FPGA’s in a system. ProtoCompiler delivers the design flow managing the large SoC Prototyping project and a HAPS daughter board called the HAPS External Clock Distribution Board, HAPS-ECDB, manages the seamless clocking, reset, configuration and synchronizing across systems. So not only is the myth of capacity limited to 100 Million ASIC gates BUSTED, it’s obliterated. To add credibility to this we even have customers utilizing such systems.

Now for the second myth: It takes months to get prototype working. This problem has been solved with integration between prototyping hardware and software. Even before ProtoCompiler was launched Synopsys delivered Certify automating the flow from ASIC RTL to FPGA-based prototype. To be honest what Certify lacked was a robust partition engine and in-depth integration with the hardware. ProtoCompiler was built with full integration and knowledge of the HAPS hardware target and a partition engine which can leverage the HAPS architecture flexibility. The result is that the time to first prototype (TTFP) can be reduced to as little as a week from first RTL drop…. Myth BUSTED !!!

ProtoCompiler integrated with HAPS delivering Time to First Prototype, TTFP, in as little as 1 week

The great thing is that due to the close integration of ProtoCompiler with HAPS you don’t trade off performance either so the end model still delivers on the #1 requirement of prototyping which is performance.

Time to bust myth 3: Limited debug visibility. First we need to get one thing straight, in FPGA-based prototyping there are hardware limitations as to how much debug data can be stored. While it’s technically possible to get simulator like visibility in HAPS the tracing logic and size of the memory storage needed would make it cost ineffective. But debug visibility is not limited. Take the HAPS-DX, it has built-in HAPS Deep Trace Debug. HAPS Deep Trace Debug is an integrated capability of ProtoCompiler DX combined with the HAPS-DX hardware. You have the capability to do simulator like debug of the design under test. How much debug visibility do you get… well an example is that you can trace 128 signals with a capture rate of 100 MHz hardware speed and you would get 5 seconds of debug data. Or you could trace more signals for a shorter period… I say Myth Busted !!!

But guess what… there is more…..

HAPS Deep Trace Debug with non-intrusive and seamless integration

As seen above, Synopsys also delivers a multi-FPGA solution as part of ProtoCompiler which does not require memory on the HAPS system itself or usage of the Hapstrak connectors. Again this capability is enabled by the tight integration between the ProtoCompiler software and the HAPS hardware systems.

In summary:-

  • Capacity limited to less than 100 Million ASIC Gates – BUSTED !!! Synopsys delivers 288 Million ASIC gate support
  • It takes months to get prototype working – BUSTED !!! ProtoCompiler & HAPS delivers TTFP in as little as 1 week
  • Limited debug visibility – BUSTED !!! ProtoCompiler & HAPS delivers deep trace debug

Are there any more FPGA-based prototyping myths you would like me to bust? Drop me a comment and I’ll work on them

Posted in ASIC Verification, Bug Hunting, Daughter Boards, Debug, HW/SW Integration, Man Hours Savings | Comments Off

Speeding Prototype to Host Connectivity

Posted by Michael Posner on 14th August 2014

A Chain picture which I thought would represent the link from host to HAPS.

A while back I talked about the various prototype to host connectivity modes facilitating IP and SoC validation including Hybrid Prototyping. The use of the Synopsys Universal Multi-Resource Bus, UMRBus for short, is key to deploying these use modes. Synopsys introduced the UMRBus along with the HAPS-60 systems and it’s popularity has grown ever since. The UMRBus provides an easy to use infrastructure for any user of the HAPS systems to configure, monitor and expend the capabilities of the HAPS system.

The UMRBus technical architecture. One side you have the hardware client application interface module, CAPIM for short. The otherside you have the generic UMRBus API which is the software layer which you program against

Synopsys provides the high level UMRBus API and the hardware interface modules along with the HAPS systems. These are the same building blocks that the Hybrid transactors are built on top of and which are delivered as part of ProtoCompiler. Multiple UMRBus connection modes are supported depending on the goal of the usage such as simple remote access and configuration to full blown high performance data streaming and Hybrid Prototyping. The follow is a list of the various connectivity modes and the expected performance. You can use these to pick the best connectivity solution to match your prototyping needs.

UMRBus over USB. The easiest connection mode as you just plug a USB cable from the host into the HAPS System either HAPS-70 or HAPS-DX

Typically the USB connection mode is used when all you want to do is remotely configure and debug the prototype.

UMRBus pod connecton. This provides the most flexibility in connectivity with UMRBus access to any and every FPGA in the system.

The UMRBus pod enables a seamless interface into the HAPS system with direct visibility into any FPGA in the HAPS chain.

This is UMRBus over a PCIe Paddle board. Basically the UMRBus is a layer on top of PCIe delivering the UMRBus capabilities over a very high performance link

This is a very high performance UMRBus mode for the HAPS-DX making it perfect for IP validation where lots of data need to be streamed on and off of the prototype. Using this mode over 400 MB/s streaming data bandwidth can be achieved

Same high performance as UMRBus over the paddle board, over 400MB/s with the added flexibility of a cable based connection

The UMRBus over PCIe MGB connection is similar to the PCIe paddle board version for the HAPS-DX and works for the HAPS-70 via a flexible cable setup. This connection method can also be used on the HAPS-DX and delivers similar performance of over 400MB/s.

We provide example designs showing how each of the UMRBus connection modes can be used as well as integration with the prototyping software tools including the new ProtoCompiler and ProtoCompiler DX. This makes any of the modes super quick to deploy.

So as you can see, lots of options to connect HAPS to a Host for advanced prototyping.

(I’m off on vacation for two weeks, so sorry, I doubt that I’ll blog during that time.)

Posted in ASIC Verification, Daughter Boards, Hybrid Prototyping, IP Validation, Use Modes | 1 Comment »

HOW TO: Achieve Fastest Time to Operational Prototype and Highest Performance

Posted by Michael Posner on 24th July 2014

Road runner the bird, not the cartoon

If you didn’t know the above picture is of the greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus). Trust me I didn’t just make up the Latin name. The Latin name means “Californian earth-cuckoo”. This blog is about how to achieve the fastest time to operational prototype, accelerating ASIC and SoC verification, speeding validation and the road runner was first image that popped into my mind when I wanted to articulate fast. There has been a lot of talk about Time To First Prototype, TTFP, recently so I thought I would blog a how to on achieving accelerated TTFP. I thought I’d raise the bar and deliver a how to on both achieving this AND get the highest operational performance out of the FPGA-based prototype.

If you have found yourself reading this blog you are looking for the magic solution but I am afraid I have to burst your bubble, there is no black magic solving this problem.

Home made no back magic logo

It’s better, all you need is a fully integrated FPGA-based prototyping solution. Yep, that simple, blog done, thank you :) (What? You want to know why an integrated solution solves all your problems!) To answer this we need to quickly review the challenges to FPGA-based prototyping. The below picture describes the challenges to prototyping, based on a recent survey that Synopsys ran. It also includes on the left the solutions to these individual challenges.

Click on the images to view the whole picture. I made them large so they were easy to read.

Survey results defining the challenges of FPGA-based Prototyping and the combined HW/SW capabilities needed to solve them

Do you spot the common theme? The challenges cannot be solved with hardware or software alone, it’s the combination that solves the problem. An example is performance, I’ve blogged about this is the past that it’s the combination of hardware interconnect flexibility and the ability to deploy a high speed time domain, differential signaling, solution that is the key to achieving the highest performance. In this case the software has to have intimate knowledge of the hardware, it’s electrical and SI characteristics to be able to correctly implement the high speed time domain IP in the multi-FPGA prototype design. At the same time ALL hardware must meet a minimum level of performance across all interconnections to ensure that when the prototype design image is deployed across many systems it always runs reliably.

Summary examples of what integrated capabilities are of the Synopsys solution

Debug is another good example. To deliver the highest debug visibility you need both a software flow that enables instrumentation of the RTL, graphical display AND hardware capabilities to store the physical data. The result of integration reduces your need for expertise as the solution has the expertise. Same for partitioning across multiple FPGA’s, as the software is hardware aware and the hardware can be tailored to the software recommended best interconnect topology the result is optimal.

Lucky for you, Synopsys delivers a fully integrated solution of ProtoCompiler plus HAPS so you don’t have to wait. And… if you call now, not in 5 minutes but now, I’ll personally visit your site to say hello.

Synopsys' integrated FPGA-based prototyping solution including ProtoCompiler software, HAPS FPGA-based hardware, debug, DesignWare IP, Support, HAPS Connect Program

While ProtoCompiler was only recently launched its delivering some fantastic customer results, see below, accelerating time to first prototype and delivering the highest performance. This was a customer design, 48 Million ASIC gates, four Xilinx Virtex-7 FPGAs. ProtoCompiler is fully integrated with HAPS leveraging its strengths. HAPS interconnect can be tailored based on the ProtoCompiler recommendations and ProtoCompiler understands the HAPS architecture and resources such as clocks and resets. ProtoCompiler is built around a stable code base of Synopsys’ mature and unique compilation and synthesis engines delivering the highest QoR for out-of-the-box results.

Synopsys achieves fastest time to prototype and highest performance operation with ProtoCompiler plus HAPS

A fully integrated solution delivers not only accelerated time to first prototype and highest performance but also reduces your effort as it’s doing the hard work for you. Just don’t tell your boss otherwise he will give you more work.

Posted in ASIC Verification, Early Software Development, HW/SW Integration, Man Hours Savings, System Validation | 2 Comments »