Processors all have high quality requirements and their reliability is the main concern of processor verification teams. Providing best-in-class quality products requires a strategic, diligent and thorough approach. Processor verification therefore plays a major role and it takes a combination of all industry standard techniques – like in a Swiss cheese model.
The need for a strong, layered processor verification strategy
You’ve heard me say this before: processor verification is a subtle art. We need to take into account uncertainty, which means opening the scope of our verification while optimizing resources. On one hand, we want to find all critical bugs before final production, and on the other hand we must have an efficient verification strategy to fulfill time to market requirements. Producing smart processor verification means finding meaningful bugs as efficiently and as early as possible during the development of the product. One way of achieving this consists in combining all industry standard verification techniques. It is by creating redundancy that we find all critical bugs.
There are different types of bugs and each bug has a complexity – or bug score – that depends on the number of events and types of events required to trigger the bugs. Some might be found with coverage, others with formal proofs, etc. Imagine the Swiss cheese model applied to processor verification. Each slice of cheese is a verification technique which has some specific strengths to catch some categories of bugs. The risk of a bug escaping and making it into the end product is mitigated by the different layers and types of verification which are layered behind each other.
In a Swiss cheese model applied to processor verification, the principle is similar to the aviation industry: if there is a direct path going through all the slices, then there is a risk of plane crash. That is why the aviation industry is strict about procedures, checklists, and redundant systems. The objective is to add more slices and reduce the size of the holes on a slice so that in the end, there is no hole going through, and we deliver a quality processor.
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