As in the previous couple of years, last year’s SNUG – Synopsys User Group showcased an amazing number of useful user papers leveraging the capabilities of the SystemVerilog language and verification methodologies centered on it.
I am always excited when I see this plethora of useful papers and I try to ensure that I set aside some time to go through all these user experiences. Now, as we wait for SNUG, Silicon Valley to kick-start the SNUG events for this year, I would want to look back at some of the very interesting and useful paper from the different SNUGs of the year 2012. Let me start with talking about a few papers in the area of the System Verilog language and SV methodologies.
Papers leveraging the SystemVerilog language and constructs
Hillel Miller of Freescale in the paper “Using covergroups and covergroup filters for effective functional coverage” uncovers the mechanisms available for carving out the coverage goals. In the p1800-2012 of the SystemVerilog LRM, new constructs are provided just for doing this. The construct that is focused on is the “with” construct. The new construct provides the ability to carve out of a multidimensional range of possibilities for a sub-range of goals. This is very relevant in a “working” or under development setup that requires frequent reprioritization to meet tape-out goals.
The paper “Taming Testbench Timing: Time’s Up for Clocking Block Confusions” by Jonathan Bromley, Kevin Johnston of Verilab, reviews the key features and purpose of clocking blocks and then examines why they continue to be a source of confusion and unexpected behavior for many verification engineers. Drawing from the authors’ project and mentoring experience, it highlights typical usage errors and how to avoid them. They clarify the internal behavior of clocking blocks to help engineers understand the reasons behind common problems, and show techniques that allow clocking blocks to be used productively and with confidence. Finally, they consider some areas that may cause portability problems across simulators and indicate how to avoid them.
Inference of latches and flops based on coding styles has always been a topic creates multiple viewpoints. There are other such scenarios of synthesis and simulation mismatches that one typically comes across. To address all such ambiguity, language developers have provided different constructs to provide for an explicit resolution based on the intent. To help us gain a deeper understanding of the topic, Don Mills of Microchip Technology Inc., presented the related concepts in the paper “Yet Another Latch and Gotchas Paper” @ SNUG Silicon Valley. This paper discusses and provides solutions to issues that designers using SystemVerilog for design come across, such as: Case expression issue for casez and casex, Latches generated when using unique case or priority case, SRFF coding style problems with synthesis, SystemVerilog 2009 new definition of logic
Gabi Glasser from Intel presented the paper “Utilizing SystemVerilog for Mixed-Signal Validation” @ SNUG Israel, where he proposed a mechanism for simplifying analysis and increasing coverage for mixed signal simulations. The method proposed here was to take advantage of SystemVerilog capabilities, which enables defining a hash (associative) array with unlimited size. During the simulation, vectors are created for required analog signals, allowing them to be analyzed within the testbench along or at the end of the simulation, without requiring saving these signals into a file. The flow change enables the ability to launch a large scale mixed signal regression while allowing an easier analysis of coverage data.
Design pattern is a general reusable solution to a commonly recurring problem within a given context. The benefit of using design patterns is clear: it gives a common language for designers when approaching a problem, and gives a set of tools, widely used, to solve issues as they come up. The paper “Design Patterns In Verification” by Guy Levenbroun of Qualcomm explores several common problems, which might rise, during the development of a testbench, and how we can use design patterns to solve these problems. The patterns are categorized majorly into following areas: creational (eg factory), structural (eg composite) and behavioral (eg template) are covered in the paper.
Arik Shmayovitsh, Avishay Tvila, Guy Lidor of Sigma Designs , in their paper “Truly reusable Testbench-to-RTL connection for System Verilog” , presents a novel approach of connecting the DUT and testbench using consistent semantics while reusing the testbench. This is achieved by abstracting the connection layer of each testbench using the SystemVerilog ‘bind’ construct. This ensures that the only thing that is required to be done to reuse the testbench for a new DUT would be to identify the instance of the corresponding DUT.
In the paper, “A Mechanism for Hierarchical Reuse of Interface Bindings”, Thomas Zboril of Qualcomm (Canada) explores another method to instantiate SV interfaces, connect them to the DUT and wrap the virtual interfaces for use in the test environment. This method allows the reuse of all the code when the original block level DUT becomes a lower level instance in a larger subsystem or chip. The method involves three key mechanisms: Hierarchical virtual interface wrappers, Novel approach of using hierarchical instantiation of SV interfaces, Another novel approach of automatic management of hierarchical references via SV macros (new)
Thinh Ngo & Sakar Jain of Freescale Semiconductor, in their paper, “100% Functional Coverage-Driven Verification Flow” propose a coverage driven verification flow that can efficiently achieve 100% functional coverage during simulation. The flow targets varied functionality, focuses at transaction level, measures coverage during simulation, and fails a test if 100% of the expected coverage is not achieved. This flow maps stimulus coverage to functional coverage, with every stimulus transaction being associated with an event in the coverage model and vice versa. This association is derived from the DUT specification and/or the DUT model. Expected events generated along with stimulus transactions are compared against actual events triggered in the DUT. The comparison results are used to pass or fail the test. 100% functional coverage is achieved via 100% stimulus coverage. The flow enables every test with its targeted functionality to meet 100% functional coverage provided that it passes.
Papers on Verification Methodology
In the paper, “Top-down vs. bottom-up verification methodology for complex ASICs” , Paul Lungu & Zygmunt Pasturczyk of Ciena at Canada covers the simulation methodology used for two large ASICs requiring block level simulations. A top-down verification methodology was used for one of the ASICs while a larger version needed an expanded bottom-up approach using extended simulation capabilities. Some techniques and verification methods such as chaining of sub environments from block to top-level are highlighted along with challenges and solutions found by the verification team. The paper presents a useful technique of of passing a RAL (Register Abstraction Layer) mirror to the C models which are used as scoreboards in the environment. The paper also presents a method of generating stable clocks inside the “program” block.
In the paper, “Integration of Legacy Verilog BFMs and VMM VIP in UVM using Abstract Classes” by Santosh Sarma of Wipro Technologies(India) presents an alternative approach where Legacy BFMs written in Verilog and not implemented using ‘Classes’ are hooked up to higher level class based components to create a standard UVM VIP structure. The paper also discusses an approach where existing VMM Transactors that are tied to such Legacy BFMs can be reused inside the UVM VIP with the help of the VCS provided UVM-VMM Interoperability Library. The implementation makes use of abstract classes to define functions that invoke the BFM APIs. The abstract class is then concretized using derived classes which give the actual implementation of the functions in the abstract class. The concrete class is then bound to the Verilog instance of the BFM using the SystemVerilog “bind” concept. The concrete class handle is then used by the UVM VIP and the VMM Transactor to interact with the underlying Verilog BFM. Using this approach the UVM VIP can be made truly reusable by using run time binding of the Verilog BFM instance to the VIP instead of using hardcoded macro names or procedural calls.
“A Unified Self-Check Infrastructure - A Standardized Approach for Creating the Self-Check Block of Any Verification Environment” by John Sotiropoulos, Matt Muresa , Massi Corba of Draper Laboratories Cambridge, MA, USA presents a structured approach for developing a centralized “Self-Check” block for a verification environment. The approach is flexible enough to work with various testbench architectures and is portable across different verification methodologies. Here, all of the design’s responses are encapsulated under a common base class, providing a single “Self-Check” interface for any checking that needs to be performed. This abstraction, combined with a single centralized scoreboard and a standardized set of components, provides the consistency needed for faster development and easier code maintenance. It expands the concept of ‘self-check’ to incorporate the white-box monitors (tracking internal DUT state changes etc.) and Temporal Models (reacting to wire changes) along-with traditional methodologies for enabling self-checking.
For VMM users looking at migrating to UVM, there is another paper from Courtney Schmitt of Analog Devices, Inc. “Transitioning to UVM from VMM” discusses the process of transitioning to a UVM based environment from VMM Differences and parallels between the two verification methodologies are presented to show that updating to UVM is mostly a matter of getting acquainted with a new set of base classes. Topics include UVM phases, agents, TLM ports, configuration, sequences, and register models. Best practices and reference resources are highlighted to make the transition from VMM to UVM as painless as possible.