By Lauro Rizzatti – Dr Lauro Rizzatti is a verification consultant and industry expert on hardware emulation.
Only a few months ago, a speck in the flow of time, 2020 began with the promise of being another successful business year. Yet here we are at the start of June, distressed and concerned about the future, afflicted by a prediction that annual GDP could drop by around 50%. Locked down in our residences and forced to wear masks in the grocery store, we are immersed in a landscape of small businesses in ashes. After all, our leaders call it war.
And most of all, so many of us grieve – for friends or family.
The damage being wrought by Covid-19 is huge. But I want to turn the tables, and look at the opportunities. Because yes, there are some.
Just consider how the EDA business model has changed in only two months, though not for the worse. Quarantined with our homes suddenly morphed into virtual offices. No more commuting. Dressed casually (i.e., wearing pajamas). Sipping our preferred coffee or tea, and listening to our favorite music in the background (mine being classical and jazz).
We can work on our engineering, marketing, applications, sales projects at our own pace, often for more than eight hours a day and with weekends included. We schedule and attend meetings using one of several online platforms. When the task at hand calls for it, we access and run EDA tools from home. We may try out new features, work on a customer design, deliver a demo, or even develop a demo.
This model extends to using hardware emulators from our virtual offices. Gone are the days when we were restricted to in-circuit-emulation (ICE).
The idea of virtualizing emulator deployment can be traced back to IKOS Systems, one of the technology’s pioneers towards the end the last millennium. It is now part of Mentor, a Siemens Business.
The virtualization of the test environment has liberated the user from the cumbersome task of interfacing the hardware verification engine to the physical world and eliminated all ICE dependencies. It has also removed the unpredictable and random behavior of real traffic that makes design debug an unpleasant experience.
Today, the virtual mode is offered by all emulation providers and appreciated by the user community for the richness of its use models, the multitude of verification tasks it enables, and the massive number of associated applications.
In virtual mode, an emulator can accelerate Universal Verification Methodology testbenches, process embedded software stacks, perform low-power verification based on several power standards, produce a design activity database for peak and average power estimation tools, speed up design-for-test (DFT) analysis, and evaluate design performance. Verification assertions and coverage were not supported in the early days of emulation, but that is no longer the case.
Some day – hopefully sooner rather than later – COVID-19 will be behind us. We will recover from the tragedy that has hit our societies, small businesses will thrive again, and people and families will enjoy their freedom. But the virtual office, including virtual access to hardware emulation, will still be with us. And while that offers little immediate comfort, there is a good chance that our productivity will be increased.