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Novas readies behavior-based debugging technology

Posted: 27 Mar 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Novas Software? Debussy? HDL debugging tool? debugger? Design Automation Conference?

Novas Software Inc. is preparing a behavior-based debugging technology that it says will support higher levels of abstraction, and is also promising improved performance and new "knowledge management" capabilities for the upgrade of its Debussy HDL debugging tool.

The behavior-based debugging product will be announced before the Design Automation Conference this June, and the Debussy upgrade with a twofold performance boost will arrive in the next few weeks, said Scott Sandler, president and chief executive officer of Novas Software. Knowledge management features will be coming later in the year, the company said.

Debussy and other current debugging tools rely on structural information alone, so users must trace back through time to infer behavior and find out why a given result is occurring, Sandler said. Behavior-based debugging uses formal verification and synthesis technology to infer that behavior directly, so it can report exactly what happened in what sequence, he said.

As a result, Novas will be able to offer new visualization and "symbolic exploration" views within the Debussy environment, Sandler said.

"It gives you the ability to see a function displayed over time in a window, rather than having to go back and forth between waveforms and source code over and over again to infer the function," he said. "You can look at a value you don't like, and it will automatically unroll the exact behavior, statement by statement, and show you a map of that flow."

Gary Smith, chief EDA analyst at Gartner Dataquest, is bullish on the behavioral debugging concept. "It's a great announcement," he said. "It really has a lot of capability, and engineers are really excited about it. There could be a significant cost savings."

Among its other new technology, the company is opening up its Knowledge Database (KDB) to handle new constructs such as stacks, queues, and properties, Sandler said. "We're also opening an API [applications programming interface] so that we can work with partners to write that information directly into the KDB," he said.

Properties and assertions have become an important part of many verification environments, and the Accellera standards organization is working on assertion language standards. Novas contributed to the design assertion subset (DAS) recently donated to Accellera by Co-Design Automation Inc. and Real Intent Corp.

The new knowledge management capabilities will provide a new way to represent design intent. "What passes for documentation today is always out of date and is almost never done," Sandler said. "We have to rethink the whole idea of how we pass information forward to someone who is going to reuse or integrate IP."

Sandler said Novas' knowledge management technology will allow users to create customizable block diagrams. The size and shape of the blocks, and the routing between the blocks, are linked to the RTL and automatically change as designers update RTL code.

To support the behavior-based debugging, Novas has developed its own formal verification and synthesis techniques. Sandler said Novas will compile RTL Verilog or VHDL into its KDB, and from there, use a synthesis engine to develop an internal representation of the design. From that, Novas can infer behavior.

Formal verification techniques play into "what if" analysis, where users can propagate signals and probe why a circuit is behaving in a particular way. It also allows what Sandler called "symbolic analysis," which lets users solve equations. For example, a user might want to know how to get a different signal value at a given time step.

"For anything synthesizable, we can infer the exact behavior over a span of simulation time," Sandler said. He noted, however, that this capability works with RTL code3not behavioral VHDL or Verilog. "We're talking about behavior as a function here," he said.

Debussy works with a number of HDL simulation tools, and is the strongest third-party debugging tool, according to Dataquest's Smith. "Novas has grabbed such a good position in debugging that they really don't have any competition," he said.

? Richard Goering

EE Times

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