Dissertation Defense

Harnessing Simulation Acceleration to Solve the Digital Design Verification Challenge

Debapriya Chatterjee

Today, design verification is by far the most resource and
time-consuming activity of any new digital integrated circuit
development. Within this area, the vast majority of the verification
effort in industry relies on simulation platforms, which can be
implemented either in hardware or software. A "simulator" includes a
model of each component of a design and has the capability of
simulating its behavior under any input scenario provided by an
engineer. Thus, simulators are deployed to evaluate the behavior of a
design under as many input scenarios as possible and to identify and
debug all incorrect functionality. Two features are critical in
simulators for the validation effort to be effective: performance and
checking/debugging capabilities. A wide range of simulator platforms
are available today: on one end of the spectrum there are
software-based simulators, providing a very rich software
infrastructure for checking and debugging the design's functionality,
but executing only at 1-10 simulation cycles per second (compare this
to actual products, which execute at GHz speeds). On the other end of
the spectrum, there are hardware-based platforms, such as
accelerators, emulators and even prototype silicon chips, providing
higher performances by 4 to 9 orders of magnitude, at the cost of very
limited or non-existent checking/debugging capabilities. As a result,
today, simulation-based validation is crippled: one can either have
satisfactory performance on hardware-accelerated platforms or critical
infrastructures for checking/debugging on software simulators, but not

This dissertation solves precisely this problem: it brings together
the two ends of the spectrum by presenting solutions that offer
high-performance simulation with effective checking and debugging
capabilities. Performance of software simulators can be boosted by
exposing the parallelism inherent in the design model to the
underlying execution substrate. To this end, this dissertation
leverages inexpensive off-the-shelf graphics processors as massively
parallel execution substrates. For hardware-based platforms, the
dissertation provides solutions that offer enhanced checking and
debugging capabilities by abstracting the relevant data to be logged
during simulation so to minimize the cost of collection, transfer and
processing. Altogether, the contribution of this dissertation has the
potential to solve the challenge of digital design verification by
enabling effective high-performance simulation-based validation.

Sponsored by

Valeria Bertacco