Friday, September 9, 2016

Quick chat with Alok Jain : Keynote speaker, DVCon India 2016

Alok Jain
All of us have heard the story of a woodcutter and the importance of the quote “Sharpen your axe”. It applies well to everything we do including verification. Two decades back, the focus of a verification engineer was predominantly on “What to Verify”. As complexity grew “How to Verify” became equally important. To enable this, EDA teams rolled out multiple technologies & methodologies. As we try to assimilate & integrate these flows amidst first time silicon & cost pressure, it is important for us to sharpen our axe through continuous learning, applying the right tool for the right job and applying it effectively.

Alok Jain, Senior Group Director in the Advanced Verification Division at Cadence would be discussing on similar lines as part of his DV track keynote on Day 1 at DVCon India 2016. With 20+ years of industry experience, Alok leads the Advanced Verification Division at Cadence India. Having associated with different technologies around verification in the past 2 decades, Alok candidly shared his views on the challenges beyond complexity that verification teams need to focus on. Here is a curtain raiser for his talk "Verification of complex SoCs" 

Alok your keynote topic focuses on challenges in verification beyond the complexity resulting from Moore’s law. Tell us more about it?

The keynote is going to focus on challenges and potential solution for verification of complex SoCs. Verifying a complex SoC consisting of tens of embedded cores and hundreds of IPs is a major challenge in the industry today. One of the big challenges is performance and capacity. Given the size and complexity of modern SoCs, tests can run for 18-24 hours or even more. One has to figure out how to get the best verification throughput. Another challenge is generation of test benches and tests. The test benches have to be developed in a way which can achieve good performance in both simulation and hardware acceleration. Tests have to be created that stress the SoC under the application use cases, low power scenarios, and multi-core coherency scenarios. The tests have to be re-usable across pre-silicon and post-silicon verification and validation platforms. Yet another challenge is coverage. One has to measure verification coverage across formal, simulation, and acceleration platforms at the SoC level to know when you are done. The final challenge is how to effectively debug across RTL, test bench, and embedded software on multiple verification platforms.

In the last decade, advancements in verification was focused primarily on unifying HVL(s) & methodologies. What changes do you foresee in verification flows ‘Beyond UVM’?

UVM is very well suited for IP, Sub-system and some specific aspects of SoC verification. However, UVM is not the best approach for general SoC verification. UVM is essentially developed for “bottom-up” verification where the focus is on trying to exhaustively verify IP/sub-systems. SoCs require a more “top-down” verification where the focus is on stressing the SoC under important application use cases. There is a need to reuse SoC content across simulation, emulation, FPGA and post-silicon. UVM is optimized for simulation and is too slow and heavy for high speed platforms. Finally, there is a need to drive software stimulus on CPUs in coordination with hardware interfaces. It is difficult in UVM to drive and control software and hardware interfaces. All this is asking us to explore options beyond UVM. The keynote will cover some more insights into options beyond UVM.

The rise of IoT is stretching the design demands to far ends i.e. server class vs edge node devices. How do you see verification flows catering to these demands?

Several of the requirements for IoT verification are similar to the ones for complex SoCs. But then there are some unique additional requirements from the IoT world. The first is simply the cost of verification. For complex SoCs, the cost of verification has been steadily rising. For IoT applications, one has to consider alternative methods and flows that can reduce the cost. One option is to use some form of a correct by construction approach where the design is specifically done in a way to enable a simpler form of verification. Another approach is to put much more emphasis on reuse. This includes horizontal reuse which is portability across multiple platforms and vertical reuse which is reuse from IP to sub-system to SoC. Another requirement is verification throughput for design with considerably more analog, mixed signal and low power content. Finally, one has to devise verification techniques and flows that can cater to the security and safety requirements of modern IoT applications.

Formal took a while to become mainstream. The rise of Apps in Formal seems to have accelerated this adoption. What’s your view on this?

Yes, I do agree that Apps has considerably accelerated the pace of adoption of formal. Traditionally, formal tools have been developed and used by formal PhDs and experts. The main charter and motivation of these experts was to solve the coolest and hardest problems in formal verification. It was only after some time that both sides (developers and users) started realizing that formal can be used in a much more practical and usable way by engineers to solve specific problems. This lead to the development of various formal apps which greatly enabled the mainstream usage of formal.

This is the 3rd edition of DVCon India. What are your expectations from the conference?

I am expecting to attend keynotes, technical papers and panel discussions that give me an understanding of some the latest work in the domain of design and verification of IPs, sub-systems and SoCs. In addition, I am looking forward to the opportunity to network with some of my peers from the industry and academia.

Thank you Alok!

Come join us in this exciting journey to contribute, collaborate, connect & celebrate @ DVCon India 2016!

Disclaimer: “The postings on this blog are my own and not necessarily reflect the views of Aricent”