Just in time for the holidays: VMM 1.2!
Posted by Janick Bergeron on December 15th, 2009
I am pleased to see that the OpenSource version of VMM 1.2 is finally released. It is the culmination of six months of hard work by the entire VMM teams and the hundreds of customers who have provided inputs on its requirements and the dozens of teams who have contributed their feedback during the beta period.
What is new in VMM 1.2 is a “secret de Polichinelle“. Ever since the start of the beta period, several VMM users and Synopsys engineers have published tutorials, seminar presentations and blog articles on many of its powerful aspects. Nonetheless, I would like to take this opportunity to give you the highlights and pointers to where you can find more information.
A new User’s Guide
One of the most important aspect of this release—and one that has not been mentioned so far—is the completely revamped and expanded User’s Guide. We have integrated the content of the VMM for SystemVerilog book, the book’s errata, and the previous User’s Guide into a single User Guide that completely documents all of the features of the class library. Furthermore, the body of this new User’s Guide has been expanded to present the methodology in a style that will be easier to learn, with many examples. Speaking of examples, this latest distribution contains a lot more examples (in $VMM_HOME/sv/examples), illustrating the many applications domains of the VMM and all of its new features.
Implicit Hierarchical Phasing
The original VMM used explicit phasing exclusively. With 1.2, VMM now supports implicit hierarchical phasing. With implicit phasing, transactors and environments need not be responsible for the phasing of the components they instantiate: that is taken care of automatically by the new vmm_timeline object. The implicit phasing is also hierarchical, meaning that an environment may contain more than one vmm_timeline instances. Sub-timelines limit the scope and interaction of user-defined phases when block-level environments are reused in a system context. Sub-timelines may also be rolled back if their portion of verification environment needs to be stalled or restarted, for example because its corresponding functionality in the DUT has been powered down. Furthermore, VMM allows implicit and explicit phasing to be arbitrarily mixed: instead of insisting that it be in control of every aspect of a verification environment, it can import portions of an environment described using an alternative phasing methodology and have it be explicitly phased using a different mechanism by encapsulating in a vmm_subenv instance. Similarly, any VMM environment can be subjugated to another phasing methodology by allowing vmm_timeline instances to be explicitly phased.
In addition to the vmm_channel, VMM 1.2 now offers an alternative transaction-level interface mechanism inspired by OSCI’s Transaction-Level Modeling standard version 2.0. I say “inspired” because it is not a direct translation of the SystemC TLM standard, as the SystemVerilog language does not support multi-inheritance used in the SystemC implementation. The TLM2 standard is radically different from TLM1 because the latter did not live up to its promises of model interoperability and simulation performance. In addition to specifying an interface and transport mechanism, TLM2 specifies clear transaction progress and completion models through phases and the Base Protocol. VMM has always provided similarly well-defined transport mechanism (vmm_channel) and completion models (see pp176-195 of the original VMM book). With the addition of TLM2 sockets, VMM can also be used to implement high-performance virtual prototyping models in SystemVerilog. Of course, we’ve made sure that you can attach a vmm_channel to an initiator or target blocking or nonblocking socket interface for maximum flexibility.
Whereas modules form a strict hierarchy in SystemVerilog, class instances (also known as objects) do not – at least from a language standpoint. However, it is a common mental model even though it is not enforced by the language. VMM 1.2 has the ability to define parent-child relationships between any instances of the vmm_object class. And because that class is the base class for all other VMM classes, any instance of a VMM class or user-defined extensions thereof can have a parent and any number of children. This creates a user-defined hierarchy of objects. And because each object has a name, it implicitly creates a hierarchical naming structure. Furthermore, because this hierarchical and the name of its component is entirely user-defined, VMM 1.2 provides the concept of namespaces to create alternative object hierarchies and names, making it easy to create hierarchical registries or to map an object hierarchy to another one. Objects can easily be found by name or by traversing the hierarchy from parent to child or vice-versa.
VMM always had the concept of class factories (see p217 in the original VMM book). It used the factory pattern in all of its pre-defined generators and recommended that it be used whenever transaction objects were created or randomized (see Rules 4-115 and 5-6 in the original VMM book). It simply did not provide any pre-defined utility to ease the implementation or overriding of class factory instances. VMM 1.2 remedies this situation by introducing a class factory API that makes it easier to replace class factory instances, as well as to build class factories. Furthermore, it provides two factory override mechanism: a fast one that creates class instances with default values, and a slower one that creates exact copies. And, being strongly typed, the new factory API will detect at compile time if you are attempting to replace a factory instance with an incompatible type.
And many more!
VMM 1.2 provides many more additional features, like hierarchical options, RTL configuration support, and test concatenation.
You can download the OpenSource distribution here. You will also find VMM 1.2 in your VCS 2009.12-1 distribution (use the +define+VMM_12 compile-time command-line option to enable it!).
Visit this blog often, as many industry leaders and Synopsys engineers will continue to provide insights on the new features included in VMM 1.2
Also, stay tuned for a series of one-day VMM 1.2 seminars and workshops that will be touring the major semiconductor centers around the globe.