We all know that chip design verification is a significant bottleneck in chip development. This bottleneck only becomes more and more narrow as design complexity compounds, and the chances of bug escapes in the race to meet tighter market windows increases. To combat this effect, significant investment in chip verification environments and computing power is necessary to ensure that the design functions as intended without fail. However, this type of financial outlay is often out of reach for some companies, and for those that can afford it, scalability remains limited.
Can moving chip design verification to the cloud be the answer?
To help answer this question, I recently spoke to Faisal Haque, founder of Imparé and an expert in the field of verification, who recently adopted the Synopsys Cloud and the Synopsys SaaS Cloud Verification Instance for his company. In addition to starting his successful verification services company, he is an accomplished author on the topic of verification, having written three books on the subject. Read on for insights from our conversation.
Me: Faisal, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. Before we dive into Imparé’s use of the Synopsys SaaS Cloud, can you give some background on your company?
Faisal: Of course. Imparé is a verification services company that I founded to help chip developers verify their most complex designs. The team has over 70 years of cumulative design and verification experience. We have taped out over 40 chip designs for some of the leading global semiconductor companies. We pride ourselves on not only being the most cost competitive, where we can offer a 5:1 cost advantage to our customers, but also one where we do not compromise on quality. Our engineers are trained in the verification discipline and are actively contributing to help verify RISC-V and OpenTitan cores.
Me: With that much verification experience under one roof, I am curious as to what kinds of challenges you’ve faced.
Faisal: Well, starting out, our team lacked the infrastructure for running simulations and regressions. We did not need to spend time and resources building a separate server farm for our compute, storage and license needs. With Synopsys SaaS Cloud, we got a virtual server farm for Impare and were able to focus on the verification challenges presented by our customers.
Me: The cloud is geared toward solving these massive computation and resource issues, but what was it about the Synopsys Cloud solution that made you choose it?
Faisal: We evaluated the Synopsys SaaS Cloud and found it easy to set up and get going. CAD/IT is fully supported so any installation complexity was removed. The interface is straight forward and once setup, it gives you a Linux terminal to work from. Not to mention, remote access is based on an HTML browser interface with multi-factor authentication for tight security. Thanks to the quick ramp up, we didn’t waste time and could stay focused on verifying the designs. Synopsys also offers flexibility in its licensing scheme, allowing us to easily scale our verification computation needs up or down.
Me: Are you saying you didn’t run into any issues with set up?
Faisal: We did encounter some hiccups early on related to user setup, but those were minor and solved very quickly. Overall, it took only 5-10 minutes to set up our users in the system. It is a very simple three-step process:
Me: Can you tell me what specifically drew you to the Synopsys SaaS Cloud Verification Instance? After all, you and your team are experts, so I assume that you had some high expectations.
Faisal: The designs that our customers create are fairly complex. Doing verification piecemeal is difficult, obviously not ideal, and can lead to errors and bug escapes. We wanted a solution that encompassed a complete verification flow from test planning to regression with automation built in. Synopsys SaaS Cloud Verification Instance provides this type of seamless work environment and allows our engineers to collaborate on verification tasks remotely, quickly, and easily.
Me: You mention the ability to collaborate remotely. Can you elaborate on this?
Faisal: Our verification team is distributed globally, but team members often work on the same project. Verification Instance allows them to easily collaborate on their verification efforts. They can check out and check in verification projects remotely, saving the work that has already been completed and sharing it with their peers.
Me: Are there any technical aspects that you have found valuable?
Faisal: The Verification Instance provides a complete framework from IDE [integrated development environment] to the ability to specify coverage targets and test plans along with the provision to automate and build our own custom scripts. The solution also allows us to create testbenches with SystemVerilog, UVM, VHDL, and mixed language designs. The Synopsys VCS® simulator and the Synopsys Verdi® debugger that are included within the Verification Instance are also top of the line, which gives us confidence that we’re detecting and fixing all the bugs. Access to the Synopsys VIP allows us to get a jump start on the verification process.
Me: What about coverage closure? How do you think Verification Instance impacts time-to-verification-closure?
Faisal: Yes, reaching verification closure quickly and accurately is very important especially as we are working on several designs in parallel. Understanding the level of coverage can be challenging because every tool in the flow has different metrics and a lot of time is spent manually interpreting that data. And because this is done manually, human error can cause something to be missed. Rerunning failed tests manually is not only time-consuming, but also increases the chances of bug escapes. Verification Instance provides the automation necessary to avoid lengthy verification closure and missed bugs, giving us confidence that coverage is actually reached.
Me: You mentioned scalability earlier. How has Verification Instance been able to help you with that?
Faisal: We perform a lot of verification work and often that spikes during crucial milestones. The flexibility that the Synopsys SaaS Cloud Verification Instance provides allows us to quickly scale and add computation and licensing resources to meet these peak demands. As verification needs wane, we then scale back our compute and licensing requirements just as easily. This flexibility allows us to create efficiencies with verification horsepower and optimize verification costs.
Me: Are there other capabilities you would like to see in Synopsys SaaS Cloud Verification Instance?
Faisal: A solid revision control system would be great. Right now, we are working without one and it makes version tracking a bit difficult. Adding limited synthesis and linting functionality would also help our engineers synthesize and lint any design changes easily. Besides these, Verification Instance hits all our marks.
Me: Thank you for that valuable feedback. Actually, our team has already enabled customers to securely connect to their private repositories such as GitHub, SVN, Bitbucket, Perforce, etc. running in their own environment so that revision control can be managed from the Synopsys SaaS Cloud.
Me: One last question before I let you go. What advice or feedback would you share with companies that are looking to adopt the Synopsys Cloud and possibly the Verification Instance?
Faisal: The Synopsys Cloud can benefit both startups and large companies but for slightly distinct reasons. Many startups would not be using on-prem resources to their fullest, making those resources unproductive and expensive to license and maintain. A startup can use the Synopsys SaaS Cloud solution to build out an infrastructure with a limited and flexible investment model. Larger companies can benefit from the ability to scale as needed and augment their existing on-prem resources to meet peak demands. Startups and large companies alike can take advantage of the remote collaboration opportunities that the Synopsys Cloud can provide.
Me: Thank you very much, Faisal, for this insightful analysis.
Imparé continues to utilize the Synopsys Cloud and Verification Instance for their many projects. To learn more about Imparé you can visit their website. To learn more about how you can take advantage of verification in the cloud like Imparé, you can download the Verification Instance Technical Paper and watch the on-demand webinar “Scalable, On-Demand (by the minute) Verification to Reach Coverage Closure”