December 24, 2008 -- Language barriers have been problematic since the dawn of civilization. Entire countries have split along spoken language lines, and wars have been fought largely based upon different cultures that have built up around various languages with entirely different concepts. The culture within semiconductor design and development is no different, except the battles are being fought in the market rather than with physical weapons. Just as in political wars, certain languages will dominate and efficiencies will be achieved through standards, whether created or de facto.
This is particularly true in the verification world. With verification taking roughly 70 percent of chip development time chip designers and developers must use every tool available to cut costs, reduce complexity, and deliver chips to market fast. Making sure all of these tools can communicate is critical.
Much has been written about compatibility of intellectual property (IP) blocks, and the occasional nightmares of getting them to work in a system on chip or embedded design. Far less is known about the interoperability of verification IP (VIP), which is used to verify specific IP blocks to entire systems. If VIP doesn't work according to plan, it is often because of language incompatibilities. The definition of language is not just the verification language in which the IP was written for. It often includes an understanding of the methodology of the chip developer, which combined create a language environment.
Done right, VIP has tangible results. It can help verify some IP or portion of a design and it can help facilitate system-level verification, which is becoming increasingly important as complexity increases in systems on chip. Many developers buy VIP to verify a portion of the design , then continue to use it for system-level verification. In those cases, it is critical for the VIP to be flexible enough for reuse in multiple instances, especially at the bleeding edge of chip development where creators can't anticipate all of the permutations or uses of their IP.
Problems are compounded using VIP from multiple sources, the same as with IP from multiple sources. If the different sources use incompatible methodologies or languages, chaos erupts further slowing the chip verification process adding big cost overruns into the equation. Incompatibilities may stem from not only from language differences, but how the language is applied, as well as the overall architecture or approach.
By Ed Sperling, Senior Contributing Editor, NewTech Press
This brief introduction has been excerpted from the original copyrighted article.
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