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Issue 3, 2011

Technology Update
Accelerating Virtual Prototype Development

Marc Serughetti, product marketing director, Synopsys, introduces Virtualizer, a proven virtual prototyping solution that accelerates hardware/software cross-development, reduces costs and improves product quality.

The use of software is on the rise. It enables companies to get more from their hardware and facilitates higher production volumes and more profitable designs. As a result, system-on-chip (SoC) design teams now spend more time writing software than building hardware. So anything that helps designers and developers to produce better software and systems, and to do so faster, with fewer resources, is good news.

Virtualizer™ is Synopsys' latest generation virtual prototyping tool set and an integral part of the company's comprehensive solution of tools, models and services for early software development, hardware-software integration, and system validation. It helps designers to create virtual prototypes, and developers to use them. Virtual prototypes are fully functional software models of complete design systems that can execute unmodified production code at near real time speed.

Proven Benefits for Software Developers
Virtualizer is designed to help those companies developing chips, software and electronic products to accelerate their software development and hardware/software integration. The solution helps designers address the software complexity challenge throughout the design chain, which is particularly valuable in vertical markets where multiple layers of software must be integrated such as automotive, consumer and wireless applications.

Besides speeding up the development of virtual prototypes, Virtualizer eases deployment of those prototypes to the teams that need them. Early access to virtual prototypes is critical for software teams; it enables software developers to begin to develop software 9-12 months prior to hardware availability and boost their productivity up to 5 times over traditional approaches to software development.

Figure 1. Virtual prototyping enhances chip and product development
Figure 1: Virtual prototyping enhances chip and product development

Virtualizer accelerates software debug by providing a platform-level view of the software behavior in conjunction with the hardware. Unparalleled visibility and control of the design through the virtual prototype enables developers to identify the root cause of a defect in a matter of hours, rather than days or weeks.

The solution bridges hardware and software, enabling teams to communicate more effectively. Users can identify, clarify and correct potential specifications or interpretation errors as well as use software-driven scenarios throughout the hardware, or system testing and validation. In one example, a design team identified and corrected more than 100 specification-related issues.

Virtualizer also helps improve design quality. Teams can increase test coverage for their device under development. They can do more corner testing, gain a better understanding of the potential root causes of problems, and test both the software and hardware by creating and automating scenario-based testing.

Proven Technology
Although Virtualizer is a new product, it is based on technology that is already proven in deployments at more than 50 leading semiconductor and electronic systems companies. It integrates tried and tested technology from CoWare, VaST and Virtio, all of whom Synopsys has acquired, with internally developed technology.

In bringing together the key attributes of each of these technologies, Virtualizer offers a comprehensive virtual prototyping solution that covers virtual platform creation and use, standards-based modeling/assembly tools, a broad model portfolio, advanced software and hardware verification, debug and analysis tools, and expert services.

Solution Capabilities
Virtualizer's set of integrated tools covers platform-level hardware and software debug and analysis, and integrates with traditional software development tools for source-code debugging. These tools enable software developers to perform platform-level debugging, platform software-level analysis, and platform-level hardware and software analysis at a level of efficiency not previously possible.

Figure 2. Virtualizer-based virtual prototyping development flow
Figure 2: Virtualizer-based virtual prototyping development flow

Developers creating a virtual prototype can use Virtualizer's graphical design entry, software debug, and analysis components combined with Synopsys' portfolio of system-level models to create prototypes quickly.

For software engineers using a virtual prototype of their system to create, integrate, and verify software, Virtualizer Development Kits (VDKs) offer a cost-effective development platform capable of executing unmodified production code at near real-time speed. VDKs provide fast and accurate virtual prototype simulation combined with multicore-aware software debug and analysis capabilities, concurrent hardware/software analysis, and synchronized debugging with third-party software debuggers and integrated development environments (IDEs). Virtualizer supports key industry standards such as OSCI TLM-2.0 and SystemC™ and runs on both Windows and Linux operating systems.

Extending the Solution
Virtualizer's broad set of integration capabilities enable development teams to be more efficient and increase the degree of concurrent engineering in their product development processes. These capabilities put Virtualizer in a unique position to support the entire electronic supply chain, accelerating development at all stages of the product design cycle. The solution integrates with adjacent flows, such as hardware verification, SoC system validation and electronic product validation.
  • Combined with FPGA-based prototyping such as Synopsys' HAPS® systems, Virtualizer facilitates faster SoC validation and software bring-up at near real-time performance.
  • Connecting Virtualizer with RTL simulators such as Synopsys' VCS® and emulation platforms such as EVE's ZeBu enables the use of embedded software in hardware verification environments.
  • Software developers can integrate prototypes based on Virtualizer with their existing debuggers and IDEs, retaining their existing software tool investment.
  • Virtualizer also gives electronic product developers the ability to conduct system validation by networking multiple virtual prototypes together with physical system simulation, testbenches and virtual IOs.

Solving System-Level Design Challenges
Virtual prototyping solutions should be geared toward solving system-level design challenges. They should enable design teams to start software development earlier, accelerate hardware/software integration, and perform full system validation and testing. Synopsys' solution, which includes Virtualizer, an extensive model library, services and support, makes it possible for design teams to accelerate their overall software development schedules by up to 9 months, and avoid the risk of surprises late in the development cycle.

More Information

About the Author

Marc Serughetti
Marc Serughetti is product marketing director at Synopsys who drives the development and deployment of virtual prototyping technologies. He has more than 15 years of experience in embedded software development technologies from leading product marketing teams at Integrated Systems, Wind River and CoWare. At CoWare, he led the company into the area of virtual prototyping, targeting the embedded software community. His experience spans simulation technologies, compilers, IDE, debugging and analysis tools as well as embedded run-time software (operating systems, middleware and applications).

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