Startup Brings Mature Property Checker to the Masses

-May 08, 2006

A German EDA startup called OneSpin Solutions is making Infineon Technologies' noted Circuit Verification Environment (CVE) formal verification technology available commercially to the mass market.

The company's managing director and chief technology officer Wolfram Büttner said the commercial version of CVE static property checker, called the 360 Module Verifier, does require a few days of training to use but claims once engineers are up to speed, it will allow them to "block all bug escape routes to ensure error-free functional operation." Further he claims it accomplishes perhaps the most vexing problem in verification: It tells you when you've done enough verification.

"We've found a way to detect all functional errors," said Büttner. "The tool checks compliance between the transaction level and RT level in digital design and is very useful for verifying functional correctness of IP, processors and peripherals up to 100,000 lines of RTL code." 

Property checking has been seen as one of the most needed but also most complex technologies to use.  The going joke was with early property checkers you had to ship two PhD application engineers with each software license. The technology is seen as important because it gives engineers an alternative to testbench and simulation methodology and way to double check their designs are functionally correct. Indeed, transactions, popular in SystemVerilog flows, are more or less tiny, less complex properties and a baby step toward bringing complex property checking to the mass market. Büttner claims the CVE tool will require a couple days worth of training but that the technology is mature and proven and makes property checkers more accessible.

He said the technology has been in use at Siemens and then its spin-off Infineon for more than seven years as both companies' standard formal tool. Infineon and Siemens engineers have used it in several hundred tapeouts, said Büttner, and has been found to achieve verification productivity of 2,000 to 4,000 lines of fully verified RTL code per engineer-month.

Büttner said users write properties with the guidance of the tool and the tool then employs proprietary algorithms to detect unstimulated, overlooked or errors that were falsely accepted by a testbench. "It finds errors that a testbench simply can't find and does an exhaustive check that lets you know when you're done with verification," said Büttner.

Büttner said the tool currently accepts Verilog or VHDL and support for SystemVerilog is in development.

Infineon remains a minority share holder in the company, but Büttner said the company also has venture backing from QVC and Apex, raising a total of $14 million thus far.

The company is based in Munich but plans to have a bay area office in the coming months.

A one year subscription to 360 Module Verifier is $200,000.

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