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Austin is always a nice place to visit, and last week I spent a few days there to attend the 17th International Workshop on Microprocessor and SOC Test and Verification (MTV). The event is held on the top floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, with spectacular views of the ever-growing Austin skyline. Some predict that within ten years it will replace San Jose as the tenth-largest city in the country. It seems possible given all the construction cranes and the horrible traffic.
But we floated above all that in our nice conference room and listened to more than 40 keynote talks, panels, and technical presentations on a wide range of topics. I’ve attended MTV only a few times but have always enjoyed it. This year’s edition had a special focus on safety and security for microelectronics, especially in automotive applications. Debashis Chowdhury from Synopsys had a simple, concise description of these terms:
Dev Pradhan, Director of Global Automotive Engineering at NXP, expanded on these points in several ways. He spoke of the need to “move from fault detection to fault recovery” and said that the key was understanding how the car operates in a degraded mode. He asserted that next-generation cars will have 100-250M lines of code, far more than a modern jetliner. I found that hard to imagine, but articles online show that we’re there already (with others arguing that this is not a useful metric.)
There was some discussion on the role of formal analysis in guaranteeing important properties related to safety and security, as well as the ability for emulation and FPGA prototyping platforms to run far more tests than software RTL simulation. Even the rarely discussed topic of fault simulation arose, in the context of verifying how transient faults or failing circuits could affect proper and safe operation. This is closely related to the verification requirements imposed by the ISO 26262 “Road vehicles – Functional safety" standard.
Harry Foster presented some of the results from the latest “Trends in Functional Study” done by Wilson Research and Mentor Graphics. A few numbers leaped out at me:
A panel on “The State of Functional Verification: Today and Tomorrow” echoed many of the themes from the presentations, including the growing role of formal verification. The keyword for most of the panelists seemed to be “alignment.” They discussed aligning digital and analog verification along the interfaces of these domains, aligning different verification approaches, and aligning stimulus and system behavior in test cases. This last discussion point reminded me of a comment that I make frequently: “portable stimulus” is as much about results checking and coverage as it is about stimulus.
Speaking of portable stimulus, while it was not a major topic at MTV it did come up several times. Monica Farkash of NXP described a novel, internal approach for software-driven verification of analog designs. Amol Bhinge, also from NXP, discussed SoC design verification challenges and said that he was “looking forward” to the results and upcoming standard from the Accellera Portable Stimulus Working Group (PSWG).
I was at the event not just to listen and take notes so that I could blog about it, but also to present a talk on “Verifying Low-Power Designs with Portable Stimulus” developed with my colleague Swami Venkatesan. It elaborated upon the overview of this subject that I discussed in a recent SemiconductorEngineering blog post. I had some excellent questions from members of the audience both after the talk and later during breaks in the program.
In the spirit of this technical conference, I made only a single mention of our Perspec portable stimulus product at the very end of my talk. I do have to remark that a couple of the other presentations were basically just product pitches, but those were exceptions. Overall this was an interesting and stimulating event with strong technical content and plenty of networking time to see old friends and make new ones. I hope to be a more regular attendee of MTV going forward.
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