Behind the Scenes: Expanding the Siemens IC Verification Portfolio with Veloce proFPGA

Siemens acquired the proFPGA product family from Pro Design in 2021. I recently spoke with Gunnar Scholl, former CEO of Pro Design and now director of engineering in the Scalable Verification Solution Division (SVSD) at Siemens, and Gabriele Pulini, product marketing manager in SVSD at Siemens.

Gunnar, what was the motivation to sell proFPGA?

Looking back, when we started our company, FPGA prototyping was a niche market that co-existed with home-brew prototyping boards. Over time, we built a large customer base of proFPGA prototypes, including some premier customers. With a larger customer base came the demand for more features and new capabilities. Customers were asking for better debugging capabilities, a more automated compilation flow, and tighter integration with popular verification methodologies like transaction-based verification. Customers were looking for a complete solution.

Gabriele, what attracted Siemens to proFPGA?

Common customers encouraged Siemens to partner with Pro Design because of the synergies between the Veloce emulation platform and the proFPGA family. An OEM agreement was signed in 2017 and engineering work was done on both sides to integrate the Veloce Prototyping System software with proFPGA. With this implementation, we accelerated proFGPA’s deployment in Veloce customers.

Gabriele, looking back over the last 10 years, what has changed in terms of creating and using FPGA prototypes?

For many years, FPGA designers created FPGA prototypes in-house. Lately though, the task has become challenging and expensive because of the complexity of the latest generation of FPGAs. In addition, because large ASIC designs require multiple FPGAs for their mapping, the design of FPGA prototypes evolved into a significant project, rather expensive and time-consuming, making off-the-shelf systems cost-effective.

Veloce proFPGA is modular, flexible, and adaptable and can accommodate a broad scope of verification requirements without compromising performance, usability, and portability. It offers the same characteristics of a home-grown alternative, plus customers can reuse FPGAs from earlier prototypes and combine them with new FPGAs. For example, if customers are mapping an IP onto a VU440 on the home-grown prototype, they can still use the same VU440 on Veloce proFPGA by installing a VU440 module.

Gunnar, what is unique in Veloce proFPGA, and what makes it competitive in a crowded market?

Veloce proFPGA has three key differentiators: modularity/flexibility, re-programmable interconnect with full I/O access, and high performance.

First, our approach consists of a modular and scalable system, as opposed to a single FPGA board, that can be configured in the field to meet a wide range of requirements and applications.

Second, we make all I/Os available on the high-speed connector boards to achieve maximum flexibility and performance. This capability is not available on all systems or boards on the market, meaning that boards with fixed interconnections cannot be changed to accommodate multiple designs.

Third, our systems are targeted for high performance. This the most critical parameter of a prototyping system. Our modules are designed from the ground up, driven by performance. An FPGA module has up to 50 layers necessary to make all I/Os available on the high-speed connector and achieve a compact footprint. Likewise, our motherboard is designed with the same objective. The entire interconnecting network is length-matched, and significant effort is invested in signal integrity. This complex architecture gives the ability to achieve maximum performance.

Veloce proFPGA has a very small and compact form factor that makes it portable. Customers can use Veloce proFPGA as an in-field demo system. They can be delivered to OEM users to integrate third-party IP into their systems. They can sit on a desktop next to a verification engineer.

Gabriele, can you further describe the attributes of Veloce proFPGA that make it a strong addition to the Veloce hardware-assisted verification platform?

The Veloce Prototyping System software creates a holistic environment that automatically manages and configures Veloce proFPGA systems. Once configured, the prototype becomes a monolithic system even if it’s mixing different FPGA types. For instance, a user can install a Xilinx Zynq FPGA with an embedded ARM core to get powerful processing and a VU19P to dispose of a vast amount of logic. By combining different FPGA technologies, users can customize their Veloce proFPGA prototypes to meet their requirements.

An advantage with modularity is the ability to quickly extend support for new FPGA devices as they become available. The effort is limited to designing an FPGA module instead of an entire FPGA prototyping board, which is significantly faster and cheaper.

LR: Gabriele, can you explain the complementary nature of Veloce Strato, Veloce Primo, and Veloce proFPGA from a customer engagement perspective?

Veloce Strato and Veloce Primo offer a path to 10 billion–plus gate capacity and scalability to support multiple concurrent users. Veloce proFPGA adds a third dimension to the solution in the form of portability. As a single-user resource, it can be used in the lab together with test instruments and physical interfaces or it can be transported in a car for field testing. Its small form factor is an advantage for such applications.

Together with the Veloce Strato emulation platform, the three serve the verification engineering community with a comprehensive and integrated set of hardware-assisted verification tools.