Posted by Paul Kaunds on August 2nd, 2010
Paul Kaunds, founder, Kacper Technologies
Today power has become a dominant factor for most applications including hand-held portable devices, consumer electronics, communications and computing devices. Market requirements are shifting focus from traditional constraints like area, cost, performance and reliability to power consumption.
For efficient power management, power intent has to be reviewed at each phase along the design flow — starting from RTL, during synthesis, and in place and route in the physical design. Power specifications of the design will be common throughout the flow. In order to implement uniform power flow, we need a common format which is easily understood by all tools used along the flow with reusability and that can be declared independent of the RTL. The creation of the UPF (unified power format) as the IEEE standard has been the best solution for specifying power intent for design implementation as well as verification. UPF sits beside design and verification, and develops relationship between the design specifications and low power specifications.
Understanding the driving factors, designers have opted for advanced low power design techniques like Power Gating, Multi Supply Multi Voltage (MSMV), Power-Retention, Power-Isolation etc. Such low power constraints have increased design complexity, which have a direct impact on verification. This makes the verification engineers’ job more challenging as they have to verify the power intent bugs along with functionality.
Some of the low-power design verification challenges are:
- · Power switch off/on duration
- · Transitions between different power modes and states
- · Interface between power domains
- · Missing of level shifters, isolation and retention
- · Legal and illegal transitions
- · Clock enabling/toggling
- · Verifying retention registers and isolation cells and level shifter Strategies
To tackle these challenges, we need a structured and reusable verification environment which is power aware and encapsulates the best practices when verifying such complex low power designs. To address the low power requirements of one of the complex telecom designs, we made use of (Verification Methodology Manual for Low Power (VMM-LP) ) for SONET/SDH verification. (http://www.vmmcentral.org/vmmlp/vmmlp.html)
We developed a framework for accelerating the verification of low power designs. Our verification environment included VMM along with UPF, RAL, and a power state manager controlled by a power management unit.
Generation of Power control signals
Power Scenario generation
Power scenario generation eased the verification of power aware designs. To generate power signals, a user can simply enter the ranges in a scenario file depending on power specifications. The same generator can be used along with any other VMM environment without any modifications for conventional verification. Some of the capabilities that can be made configurable in this scenario include: varying retention, isolation and power widths. Additionally, other key capabilities were enabled:
- · Adheres to standard power sequence as specified in VMM_LP
- · All the power signals and power domains are parameterizable
- · Power Generator can be hooked to any VMM environment
- · Gives a well defined structure to define power sequences
- · Avoids overlapping of control signals
- · Allows multiple save, restore in each sequence
The Power state manager takes care of state transition operations by defining power domains, states, modes and their dependencies. It is the key holder for all power transitions that can monitor all transitions dynamically.
Automated Power Aware Assertion Library
Another mechanism to address the challenges in low power verification is the usage of powerful LP assertions. Low power assertions are dealt in conjunction with design’s logic data checkers. VMM-LP assertion rules and coverage techniques helped us to achieve a comprehensive low power verification solution. It suggested some handy recommendations to ensure a consistent and portable implementation of the methodology.
To increase our efficiency of Low Power Telecom design verification, we also developed an automated Power Aware Assertion Library which is generic to any domain and can be hooked to any design. Assertion library is built on top of VMM_LP rules and guidelines with standard power sequencing. Key features of our Assertion library include:
- · Assertions to verify access of software addressable registers in on/off conditions
- · Clock toggling during power on/off
- · Reset during power off
- · Power control signals sequencing etc.
More details on our flow and usage can be found online in the paper we recently presented at the Synopsys User Group meeting (SNUG) in Bangalore: