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Protocol analyzer slated for ASI

Posted: 08 Mar 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:asi? advanced switching interconnect? agilent technologies? windows? protocol-test?

Supporting design verification for the forthcoming ASI (Advanced Switching Interconnect) high-speed data plane standard, Agilent Technologies is debuting a Windows-based protocol-test approach for the switched-fabric interconnect.

ASI, based on pci express technology, is now supported by more than 60 companies. ASI lets computer components such as processor nodes and I/O nodes be interconnected in a variety of topologies.

Especially significant is ASI's ability to do protocol tunneling. That permits any protocol to be embedded in ASI. It also readily extends PCI Express to blades and servers, letting implementers use standard technology. That's much better than tussling with proprietary approaches.

As a standard, ASI also incorporates definitions for QoS (quality of service), with peer-to-peer or multi-cast communications. It also defines load/store and queuing protocols.

Enter the tester
For its part in the ASI test game, Agilent's E2980A series, with its gui (graphical user interface) and state-machine triggering, lets you test chipsets from first-silicon, through to board turn-on, and then to overall system verification.

Agilent says its E2980A is the industry's first approach that provides protocol analysis as well as protocol exercising features for ASI. These attributes make it suitable for bring-up and debug, validation, and compliance testing of ASI components and systems.

The GUI supports graphical trigger setup, and search and filter capabilities to help you to intuitively interpret ASI transactions. The GUI also provides a menu display of the exerciser's capabilities, letting you set up single packets or sequences or blocks of packets.

The protocol analyzer's trigger capabilities, based on the programmable state-machine, also provides a graphical way to set up the system, with easy to read screen representations of trigger sequences. Examples and listed pre-defined conditions also reduce time-consuming trigger set-ups.

You can test either single or multiple ASI interfaces with complete test coverage, reducing the risk of expensive, time-consuming re-work. It can even emulate missing devices that are not yet ready as part of a fabric.

The E2980A system protocol tester gives you test coverage with ASI packet generation via the protocol exerciser, and ASI protocol decoding via the protocol analyzer. The protocol exerciser also acts as an active ASI device that can generate and respond to all types of ASI packets and sequences of packets. It provides non-intrusive monitoring of traffic between two ASI end nodes.

All layers
The E2980A system protocol tester also supports design verification and corner-case scenarios, with flexible control of parameters on all layers of the ASI protocol, together with sophisticated error-insertion capabilities. It also permits emulation of large ASI fabrics, enabling the testing of BIOS software, drivers and switches.

The protocol analyzer also provides dynamic triggering, search/filter capabilities, and usability and traffic representations. These support debug, detailed root-cause analysis, and device-performance analysis. The system also supports multiple ways to connect to a device-under-test, with either slot interposer probing or mid-bus probing. Finally, the tester gives you coverage of ASI x1, x4, and x8.

PCI Express slot interposers
In use, probe boards can accept a PCI Express x1, x4, x8 or x16 add-in card. It's inserted into an x16 connector on the top of the probe board. This will operate up to ASI x8 for the x8 probe card. The boards are standard-size short PCI cards.

One probe board is required per I/O module, except when using the E2942A single probe Y cable. It connects two modules to one active probe board, to permit the use of the exerciser and analyzer through one active probe board. When the probe board is plugged into a system, the add-in card (when using the E2980A analyzer mode) can be powered either by the system or by an external AT/ATX power supply.

When the E2980A is being used as an exerciser for testing an add- in card and isn't plugged into a system, you need a standard AT/ATX PC power supply to operate an add-in card plugged into the connector on top of the probe board.

"The E2980A is based on our N2X modular protocol test platform," notes Sigi Gross, Agilent's Digital Verification Solutions division VP and general manager. "It offers multi-protocol testing that can be used with ASI, PCI Express, and Fiber Channel."

"Moreover," adds Gross, "its multi-port test capability permits system-level switch/fabric testing, and it simultaneously records traffic and transactions on the ASI bus, and then time-correlates them for PCI Express test applications."

The N2X architecture is based on programmable measurement blades that can be updated to the latest standards. These blades plug into a common chassis and can be mixed and matched to create realistic emulation. An N2X can test the performance of a service, from the enterprise through to the access/metro network and over the core network.

Custom automation
Gross also points to the system's ability to exerciser DCOM and TCL interfaces to customize test automation. For automated tests, you control the exerciser via a DCOM or TCL programming interface.

An upgrade path
"Thanks to being FPGA-based, it's a universal and flexible platform that can protect your capital investment," adds Gross. "Users who already own an Agilent E2960 PCI Express analyzer or exerciser can simply upgrade their system with a software package."

Gross notes that with its fully adjustable parameters, the protocol exerciser is able to generate and respond to any ASI transaction. "It's an intelligent I/O communication tool that can emulate an active ASI end node or device," he says. "It's tailored to validate corner cases and emulate stress conditions for components, systems, and cards."

Gross points out that the exerciser can also insert errors and test the behavior of designs in response to these errors to enable worst-case-scenario testing.

Price and availability
You can monitor/test from one to eight ASI lanes with either a 2-slot or 4- slot chassis. The 2- slot chassis accommodates up to two serial I/O modules. It can be used where portability is paramount. The 4-slot chassis houses up to four serial I/O modules, and is intended for use on the benchtop or in a rack. Gross notes that it's good for validation applications where you need multiple exercisers to stress and load system slots. You can connect multiple chassis and control and sync them from a single host.

Gross notes that the E2980A can be ordered now, with shipments starting in May. The protocol exercisers are priced starting at about $62,000. The protocol analyzers start at about $58,000. If you already own an E2960A for PCI Express, you can upgrade to an E2980A for ASI starting at $29,000.

- Alex Mendelsohn

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