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Issue 3, 2011

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Technology Update
TLMCentral: The Industry-Wide Web Portal for Transaction-Level Modeling

TLMCentral is an open, web-based portal that provides consolidated access to transaction-level models available across the industry, helping virtual prototype developers accelerate the creation and deployment of their prototypes for early software design. At the time of the initial TLMCentral launch, hundreds of models were searchable on the site, with the number expected to grow rapidly.

Software complexity is having a huge impact on the electronics supply chain, so it should be no surprise that tackling software development productivity and quality are becoming the primary concern for SoC teams worldwide. Besides spiraling development costs, there are also the very tangible costs of delivering poor-quality software. Software developers recognize that something has to be done, and better debugging environments are at the top of their wishlists.

Virtual prototyping is gaining traction as a critical methodology for semiconductor and systems design teams as a means to start software development earlier and complete it more efficiently. Virtual prototypes are fast, fully functional software models of complete systems that can execute unmodified production code. Virtual prototypes also offer unparalleled debug efficiency with full system visibility and control, reducing risk, improving design quality and increasing overall design productivity. To build virtual prototypes, development teams need access to models of their design blocks and interfaces: transaction-level models, or TLMs.

Transaction-Level Modeling
Transaction-level models (TLMs) separate the definition of how modules communicate from the details of how they are implemented. At the transaction level, the emphasis is on the functionality of the data transfers – what data are transferred to and from what locations – and less on their actual implementation, that is, on the actual protocol used for data transfer.

This high-level approach to modeling offers a number of benefits to development teams. TLMs enable full system-level representations of the design to be created very quickly, without having to wait for hardware designers to write RTL. The models also enable fast simulation speeds with near real-time execution of software. This approach is commonly described as virtual prototyping, and it allows software engineers to start creating their code several months earlier. It also helps designers debug their systems at a faster pace. While these benefits radically improve productivity and quality for the development of embedded systems, they are only possible with access to the required TLMs.

Taking the Initiative
TLMCentral is an online portal that aggregates industry-wide transaction-level models. As well as providing access to both free and commercial models, TLMCentral includes industry news, blogs and forums.

TLMCentral is the next step in realizing the vision of the Open SystemC initiative, which began with the launch of SystemC in 1999. SystemC was a clear signal of intent to change the design methodology for hardware/software co-development. One important outcome was the definition of the SystemC TLM-2.0 standard, which describes how IP models can easily interface with each other.

TLMCentral will ease the adoption of virtual prototyping. It will bridge the gap between model developers and users by supporting the ecosystem of software developers, hardware designers, system architects, IP developers and model suppliers, who can share their expertise and collective knowledge to accelerate the availability of TLMs and virtual prototypes.

End-User Benefits
Development teams will be able to quickly and easily locate TLMs and the information they need from one central location, leaving them more time for design, development, debug and test. Often, at the start of a project, design teams have to decide whether the models they need are readily available, and whether they will need to create any from scratch. TLMCentral – the industry's most comprehensive repository of transaction-level models – will enable them to procure the models they need efficiently and with greater confidence.

Table 1. Comparing soft, hard and full-custom cores
Figure 1: TLMCentral Model Exchange layout

Get Started Now!
TLMCentral is open to everyone and free to use. Users only need to register and log in if they wish to upload a model, download or rate a model or contribute to the forums.

Leading IP vendors, including ARM and Tensilica, service companies such as Wipro and HCL, and many leading universities are joining Synopsys to support TLMCentral by making their models available on the site today.

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