A View from the Top: A Virtual Prototyping Blog


System Prototypes: Virtual, Hardware or Hybrid?

The Tuesday’s panel “System Prototypes: Virtual, Hardware or Hybrid” at DAC was well attended with an active and exciting discussion among the panelists and the audience. Panelists came from Amicus Wireless, Qualcomm, LSI, Synopsys, ST-Ericsson and CoWare. There was a consensus that there is no on-size-fits all solution for prototyping. Different design tasks such as system level architecture definition, software prototyping and bring up and implementation prototyping have different requirements on the prototyping solution. Qualcomm and ST-Ericsson have reported about their successful adoption of virtual prototyping using Virtual Platforms for early software development. Both reported that Virtual Platforms has significantly smoothed their software bring-up step-function that they typically had without Virtual Platforms and when the hardware became available late in the design. Questions have been raised about the accuracy of Virtual Platforms. Here, the panelists where in agreement that a Virtual Platform does need to provide the accuracy required for the different design tasks such as being just functional accurate for software development. I have been reporting a trend that we see at our Electronic System Virtualization solution users moving away from spreadsheets for the architecture definition. This was hitting a question from  the audience how Virtual Platforms can be used for HW/SW partitioning. System level architecture prototyping is done using non-functional workload models characterizing traffic scenarios for application/task mapping as well as interconnect and memory subsystem optimization. This way the dynamics of a system can be captured which is not possible using static spreadsheets. Other questions were about using Virtual Platforms after silicon is out. Here, the Google Android Emulator was mentioned as a perfect example how Virtual Platforms deliver value to even the application software developers by having access to a fully virtualized environment including GPS, Internet, Accelerometer to develop disruptive applications. People in the audience where also reporting about the trouble they face when trying to bring up systems on an FPGA, it simply does not fit for many cases. FPGAs are used for block level implementation prototyping but cannot provide a full environment. It was an exciting panel and it has clearly shown the increasing demand and adoption of Virtual Platforms in the industry.

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