Virtio Web site offers free services to end users
Virtio Web site offers free services to end users
By Richard Goering, EE Times
July 24, 2000 (10:53 a.m. EST)
CAMPBELL, Calif. Startup Virtio Corp. this week is launching the www.virtio.com Web site that will offer free services to end users, as well as rapid system prototyping and silicon intellectual property (IP) evaluation. The site provides preconfigured "platforms" with fast processor models, and its underlying technology is based on a graphical C/C++ language developed at National Semiconductor's Research Laboratories.
Virtio introduced itself last year as Simulation Magic and promised to ship a product called Virtual Silicon 2.0. That tool was released, but the company changed its name and radically revamped its business model to become an Internet application service provider (ASP) that offers free services. Paying customers are IP providers and licensees, along with users who want to set up intranet versions of the Virtio Integrated Development Envir onment (IDE).
By providing what amounts to virtual models of development boards, Virtio claims to allow very rapid evaluation of IP options. The Virtio IDE also allows system architects to configure system-on-chip platforms and lets software developers begin work long before any hardware is built.
"We're not providing a strong vehicle for designing hardware," said Shay Ben-Chorin, Virtio president and chief executive officer. "This is a vehicle to close a specification, to decide which IP is going into a design, and to do hardware/software co-development."
Ben-Chorin, a 12-year veteran of National Semiconductor, was most recently director of system-level simulation technology at that company. National helped fund Virtio and holds a 17 percent stake in the company, which now employs 25 people. MIPS Technologies is Virtio's first announced paying customer.
Virtio's initial product, Virtual Silicon, included a C/C++ graphical language and processor models at several levels of abstraction. The idea was that users would run embedded software on cycle-accurate or instruction-accurate processor models and would model the rest of the system using the graphical language. Initially, Verilog code generation was promised as part of the package.
But before shipping the product in volume, Virtio decided to reinvent itself as an Internet ASP. "Our technology aligns with the Internet," said Ben-Chorin. "It's graphical virtual prototyping with a high emphasis on visualization and creation of system models."
The Virtio IDE, preconfigured platforms, and processor models are available as a free service, but they stay on the Virtio Web site, as does the user's design data. Users who want to take their modified platforms away must purchase the intranet version of the Virtio IDE.
While the underlying technology is basically the same as for Virtual Silico n, there are some key differences. One is the addition of HTML scripting. Another is Virtio's decision to stay on a high level by generating SystemC code, rather than RTL Verilog. "We don't want to go into the EDA flow," said Ben-Chorin.
The company has also shifted its focus from cycle-accurate processor models to much faster instruction-accurate models. Ben-Chorin said that Virtio's 32-bit MIPS model runs 5 to 10 million instructions/second on a 700-MHz Pentium-based PC. Today, Virtio has instruction-accurate models for MIPS and X86 processors, and cycle-accurate models for ARM processors.
Instead of just giving the user a language with which to model the rest of the system, Virtio will create platforms for what Ben-Chorin called "high visibility" applications. Platforms include fast processor models, peripheral models, co-simulation application programming interfaces (APIs), and "man-machine" interface models that mimic the appearance of the system.
Initially, Virtio is offering platforms in t hree areas: Bluetooth wireless design with ARM or MIPS, the Atlas MIPS development board, and an automotive platform with an ARM processor. Those boards are created using the graphical C/C++ language.
The Atlas platform includes Virtio's instruction-accurate MIPS model along with peripherals such as UARTs, a real-time clock, a network interface, an interrupt controller and an ASCII display controller. System architects can use Virtio's graphical language to change the composition of the platform.
Software developers can upload embedded software to the platform, which is claimed to be able to boot embedded Linux in less than three minutes. And users can insert a breakpoint in the virtual network interface and single-step in the hardware domain as software is executing.
"The timing is definitely not the same as if you were running on a real board," Ben-Chorin acknowledged. "But when you're evaluating IP, you should not be too concerned with timing."
Virtio is of fering a staged release of its prototyping capabilities. First out of the gate, available now, is what the company calls its showroom: Here, users can select a platform and run what amounts to a canned demo. With an ARM platform, for instance, users can run a cycle-accurate simulation of ARM's Amba bus. Users don't need to log on to anything to run the demos.
The "design room," slated for completion in late September, will allow registered users to modify existing platforms using the Virtio IDE or to create new platforms from scratch. Software developers will be able to upload and execute embedded code on the platforms. Design files are retained on Virtio's servers, but users can download a "view only" version of the Virtio IDE.
The "service room," also slated for late September, will add such capabilities as requests for quotes and links to implementation services.
Virtio believes that IP providers and their semiconductor vendor licensees will provide the company's primary source of revenue. Vir tio will create branded Web sites for its customers; it is currently building one for MIPS that will let prospective MIPS customers evaluate that company's processor cores on Virtio platforms.
While Virtio is not offering the first Web site promising rapid IP evaluation, Ben-Chorin said Virtio operates at a higher level of abstraction than others. "We're more on the information side than the design side," he said.
Copyright © 2003 CMP Media, LLC | Privacy Statement