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Breaking the verification barrier

Posted: 01 Jun 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:OneSpin Solutions? IC formal verification? Infineon? EDA? Richard Goering?

Startup OneSpin Solutions believes it has technology that will usher in a new era of IC formal verification. But if this Infineon spinoff is successful, the real breakthrough may be one of bringing internal technology from a large integrated device manufacturer into a global, commercial EDA market.

A recent spinoff from Infineon Technologies' Circuit Verification Environment unit, OneSpin will roll out 360 Module Verifier (MV) this week. The solution is based on 250-plus engineer-years of R&D at Siemens and Infineon. The company says that MV offers verification so complete that simulation will not be needed at the module levelalthough it will still be needed when modules are hooked together.

Large IDMs like Infineon have a great deal of sophisticated EDA technology, but bringing such technology into the marketplace has proved difficult. IBM Corp., for example, tried to enter the commercial EDA market several times with little success, although it has had successful partnerships with several large EDA vendors.

True functional signoff
It's not easy to take a tool that was honed for a single company and turn it into a product that anyone can use. But Wolfram Buettner, OneSpin founder, CTO and managing director, believes his company's technology is so compelling that it will have broad appeal.

"We can systematically identify all functional errors in a module, and I mean all," he said. "We call this a breakthrough in verification. For the first time, true functional signoff can be done."

OneSpin may be a startup, but the company is leveraging 20 years of research at Siemens and Infineon, Buettner noted. He said that Siemens was one of the first companies to mount a major effort in formal verification and that Siemens and Infineon made extensive use of the tools that were developed.

Buettner said that OneSpin has done a great deal of work with the technology it inherited from Siemens and Infineon.

"Today, said Buettner, the OneSpin 360 VM is ready to ship. The company claims it is a breakthrough static verification solution that handles peripherals, processors and subsystems with as many as a few hundred thousand lines of RTL code. And while it requires no change to established design flows, it detects all functional errors in complex digital modules and intellectual property, the company said.

Dozens of vendors crowd the IC functional verification market. Gary Smith, chief EDA analyst at Gartner Dataquest, said that a formal verification vendor that can provide a 10x performance improvement and a tool that can be used by a typical verification engineer has a chance to succeed.

But Smith scoffed at the notion that a formal tool can replace block-level simulation. "Formal vendors all say that," he said. "It shows a lack of understanding of how a design engineer uses simulation."

The secret, said Buettner, is OneSpin's ability to block all bug escape routes and detect bugs that other formal or simulation methodologies would miss. "There are no blind spots," he said.

Further, 360 MV claims the ability to compare an original specification with the RTL code and to make sure that there's nothing in the code that's not in the spec. Starting from a data sheet-like specification, the tool can guarantee that the function meets the specification.

The input to 360 MV is the spec and the RTL code. Users must also specify properties, and that could be a controversial aspect of the tool, because it uses a proprietary property language. Industry-standard languages like Property Specification Language and SystemVerilog don't have the capabilities for 360 MV, Buettner said.

The tool outputs a proven set of properties. A "completeness checker" makes sure that verification is complete, spotting any bits of code not covered by properties, Buettner said.

Buettner said most properties run in minutes, and 360 MV was able to fully verify a superscalar processor in 8hrs.

An initial target for OneSpin is silicon IP providers, which are struggling to verify increasingly complex IP. "The value of our solution is to enable risk-free IP reuse," said Thierry Le Squeren, managing director and vice president of sales and marketing at OneSpin. That alone would be a considerable accomplishment.

- Richard Goering
EE Times

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