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The Growing Need for Scalable Solutions in the Emulation and Prototyping of Complex Designs

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As chips get larger and more complex, with more interfaces and needing early hardware and software code integration, Emulation and Prototyping have become essential tools in the verification landscape. Hardware-assisted verification (HAV) is a mandatory investment as 5G, autonomous driving, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and storage systems increase in importance.

  • To address 5G design verification, a comprehensive suite of tools integrated with a flow that starts at the pre-silicon intellectual property (IP) block level and proceeds to the post-silicon test lab is a necessity.
  • As autonomous driving technology development continues to grow, so does the need for efficient and accurate prototyping and validation solutions. Entire controllers need to be tested in a realistic environment for accurate testing of the sense, compute, and actuate components.
  • In AI/ ML chips, it is important to consider the different types of architectures from the verification perspective, design capacity, design fabric, power analysis, and software stack validation.
  • The non-deterministic nature of storage systems (SSDs and CSDs) can benefit from emulation-based virtual verification, including the ability to carry out complete system verification at high speed.

FPGAs are particularly well suited for HAV due to their flexibility and reconfigurability. No other verification tool can meet these challenges as effectively as FPGAs.

  • Runtime performance: Designers can rapidly design and test their designs under real-world conditions to ensure that they will work as intended at high speeds, providing an important feedback loop during the design process. FPGA based HAVs can achieve runtime performance 2X to 5X faster than traditional HDL simulation.
  • Time to market: FPGA reconfigurability provides testing agility with real-time modification. New scenarios can be tested and changes can be made quickly if needed, shortening the development process and time to market for new chips.
  • System complexity: Large logic density FPGAs reduce board space requirements and complexity for system vendors. Intel® Stratix® 10 GX 10M FPGA is the largest FPGA in the world featuring 10.2 million logic elements (LEs) and over 2300 I/Os, enabling advanced debug and design tuning capabilities.
  • Scalable platform: FPGA-based emulation and prototyping systems are scalable. Multiple FPGAs can be used in parallel, with each FPGA emulating a portion of the design under test (DUT). The DUT interfaces with the “outside world” through high-speed I/O pins.
  • High-speed debug: FPGA-based emulation also provides flexibility, as DUTs mapped into logic resources are reconfigurable in real time. This enables high speed debug with more visibility than HDL simulation.
  • Performance and latency virtualization: FPGAs also enable emulation-based virtualization allowing designers to prototype pre-silicon and evaluate performance and latency within 5-10% of actual silicon.
  • Concurrent software and hardware development: Software development and validation can be done concurrently with hardware verification, reducing design cycle time for high quality products.
  • Accurate power analysis: FPGA-based hardware emulators can run real-world applications for quick, efficient, and accurate models for power analysis.

As electronic design complexity increases, so does the need for cost and time-effective verification platforms that can keep pace with the increasing speed and accuracy demands. FPGA-based Emulation and Prototyping has gained popularity in recent years due to its many advantages. High-density FPGAs contain more logic than other technologies, making them better suited for larger designs. FPGAs are flexible, reconfigurable, and scalable to support different design requirements. FPGAs can operate at much higher speeds than other technologies, making them ideal for high-speed designs. And most importantly, FPGAs offer the highest performance per dollar compared to other verification platforms, making them a cost-effective solution.

Visit the Intel® Stratix® 10 GX 10M FPGA page to learn more about Intel’s solution for Emulation and Prototyping industry.