It’s Prime Time for Hardware Emulation in the Cloud

Source: EEWeb

By Lauro Rizzatti

June 13, 2018

Now, no obstacles stand in the way for any potential users to benefit from the power of emulation and meet their tape-out deadlines.

I was let in on a soon-to-be-announced breakthrough on the verification front that I can’t keep to myself. I’m about to share it, but first…

After two false starts by one of the major electronic design automation (EDA) companies in 2000 and again in 2011, offering access to EDA tools via a cloud is now a reality and is here to stay.

Unlike previous attempts when users shied away from committing their design databases to a public cloud due to security fears, recent progress made by cloud providers to tighten their security has alleviated and removed these concerns. Most EDA vendors today make a business offering time-based cloud access to their tools, from synthesis through layout.


Large companies under pressure to meet a challenging tape-out deadline may add cloud access to software licenses for any tool on a temporary basis, without incurring the cost of purchasing those licenses. Small companies and startups can overcome the financial barrier-to-entry associated with purchasing expensive EDA tools and obtain time-based tool access without breaking their constrained budgets.

It is a win-win situation.

Notwithstanding that hardware emulation is a mandatory verification engine in the toolbox of hardware and software verification teams, no emulation supplier thus far has offered emulation access via the cloud. What makes emulation mandatory is its speed of execution, ranging from three to five orders of magnitude faster than traditional register-transfer-level (RTL) or gate-level simulation; the larger the design size, the higher the acceleration factor. Combining exceptional speed with full design visibility promotes emulation to be the only capable platform for thorough hardware debugging, hardware/software co-verification or integration, system-level prototyping, low-power verification and power estimation, and performance characterization for system-on-chips (SoC) and system-on-systems (SoS) design.

The long-overdue announcement is that the design community does not have to wait any longer. Mentor, a Siemens Business, is the first to break the ice. Mentor will announce the next week that it will be the first EDA vendor to offer cloud access to its Veloce hardware emulation platform via Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Cloud-based access expands the offering of the data center use model beyond classic “on premises” where the emulation platform is owned and operated by the user, to “off-premises” where it is co-located and shared among several users.

While saving the upfront cost of purchasing the technology, providing cloud access to emulation results in additional savings by removing expenses inherent to the technology, such as:

  1. Installation and infrastructure expenses necessary to accommodate the equipment on the premises.
  2. Maintenance and recurring costs — inclusive of expenses for renting or amortizing the facility — to keep the machine running and to ensure proper environmental conditions of temperature, humidity, as well as pollution-free air.
  3. Operational expenses to use and operate the emulation equipment.

The main beneficiary is the IT department, though the design community can also enjoy multiple advantages.

An emulation data center in the cloud offers flexibility and convenience. By “virtualizing” the test environment and eliminating the cumbersome in-circuit emulation (ICE) approach, users can concurrently share the emulation resource and benefit from several modes of operation. From block-level verification all the way to system-level validation and embedded software integration and validation, engineering team can perform multiple pre- and post-silicon verification tasks.

Scalability of the design size up to a contractual limit agreed upon with the provider gives a design team ample room for accommodating any capacity needs on short notice, and the team can meet unanticipated requests for peak capacity in a blink of an eye.

When unexpected project needs pop up, all the power and versatility of emulation is available to the team, quickly and economically, 24/7, anywhere in the world.

Design compilation prior to mapping a design onto the emulator, launched and monitored from the host computer, can be carried out on the cloud computing resources. The same goes for retrieving post-emulation design data and for generating waveforms to trace design bugs on the host computer.

By announcing the availability of the Veloce emulation platform in the cloud, Mentor has filled the last gap in offering the entire EDA tool arsenal to end users around the world. Now, no obstacles stand in the way for any potential users to benefit from the power of emulation and meet their tape-out deadlines.