A View from the Top: A Virtual Prototyping Blog


Selling Free Stuff? Sounds hard!

You may remember this story from Red Hat. A couple of years ago I heard a presentation from a Red Hat representative, who was telling a story from the early days. At a time when Red Hat tried to figure out their business model, a couple of key executives went on an offsite and as part of that were kayaking in Colorado or another equally beautiful area. The guide they had taking care of them asked them after a while “so, what are y’all doing here, what line of work are you in”. The team apparently replied with “We are trying to find out how to sell free stuff”. Allegedly the guide thought for a while and then came back with “Well, good luck. Sounds hard!”.

Apparently it is still hard to make money with free stuff. Which brings me to Imperas and OVP. First I need a disclaimer: I have been their VP Marketing in 2006/2007. In my judgment their technology for processor modeling is cool and well thought out, probably the best I have seen so far – for processor modeling that is. They are also a partner for our System-Level Catalyst program here at Synopsys.

Imperas recently announced that they support the OSCI SystemC TLM-2.0 APIs. This – in my mind – has made them a valid player for processor models as SystemC TLM-2.0 is now the standards on which all vendors in the virtual platform space keep their models interoperable.

On the commercial side, Imperas recently announced some license changes:

Until now, OVPsim has been available on Linux to Imperas commercial customers only and was funded by their commercial contracts. We are now making OVPsim available on Linux to the wider OVP community.


To enable and fund this, from the new release, OVPsim will only be free for non-commercial usage. Commercial use of OVPsim on Windows or Linux will now require a commercial license from Imperas with pricing from $300/month per user. Commercial users can download and use the free OVPsim for evaluation purposes.

From So this means that to simulate processor models, the price for the OVP offering just went from free on Windows (Linux was always charged for as the first sentence above shows) to $3600 per year per license on both platforms. This is an interesting step. Soon we will know, whether OVP users were actually interested in the openness of the APIs for processor modeling or in the aspect of free simulation. There is an interesting Blog post on this at Golden Pebbles, called “On Free, Open Source and VRM”, from which I borrowed the drawing on the left. I think the “free-ness” deserves an even bigger bubble in relationship to the “open-ness”, but time will tell. And when it comes to openness, the APIs for SystemC TLM-2.0 to enable model interoperability were open all along, so were the Freescale ADL descriptions for processor modeling, even prior to OVP.

Overall this is another interesting twist in the discussion where the value for vendors is in virtual platforms. Is it simulation? Or debugging? The models? The tools enabling virtual platform development? It looks like the concept of completely free simulation to enable other tools around it – like Imperas had indicated in an interview around the “Blue Ocean Strategy” – did not quite work out from a commercial perspective. It is an interesting experiment though.

Here at Synopsys our slogan has been for quite some time “it’s all about the models”. It has been the major driving thought for our DesignWare System-Level Library, which works in all SystemC compatible environments. More models being SystemC TLM-2.0 compatible – like the OVP models – can only help to further fuel adoption of SystemC based virtual platforms.

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