SUNNYVALE, Calif. Claiming a breakthrough in functional verification, Axis Systems this week will unveil SEmulation, a hardware-assisted product intended to combine the best of simulation and emulation. SEmulation adds new hardware and software to Axis' current Xcite simulation accelerator.
Axis claims some industry firsts with SEmulation. The company is offering a single box with both simulation acceleration and emulation, and an ability to switch instantly to simulation for debugging. The tool is event-driven, not cycle-based, and it is said to directly emulate RTL netlists without synthesizing to gates.
"We have the full advantages of simulation, with emulation speed in an emulation environment," said Mike Tsai, president and chief executive officer of Axis Systems. "I don't think anybody else has that."
Steve Wang, Axis' vice president of marketing, said that the new product is aimed at design teams rather than back-end verification teams. He pointed to its direct emulation of RTL netlists, ability to debug without a logic analyzer, and relative ease of use and setup compared with traditional emulation systems.
SEmulation, however, will not be available until the fall, and pricing has not been set. Axis plans a demo at the Design Automation Conference in June.
What turns SEmulation into an emulator, Wang said, is that users can go "in circuit" and hook it up to an external system. For example, a graphics designer could plug into a PC and display actual graphics. The emulation capability does not require a testbench.
There are three ways to connect SEmulation to a broader system. The most elegant involves a custom board that lets users plug directly into the backplane but users must design and build the board, following specifications from Axis. A premanufactured board from Axis provides an external cable interface. Finally, if there's no need to access external hardware, an ent ire system-on-chip can be mapped into FPGAs.
Axis has also added software that controls the emulation and allows the user instantly to switch over to simulation for debugging. That's why the system doesn't require, or even provide for, use of a logic analyzer. To debug, users swap the emulation state into simulation, where all the debugging features of a software simulator are available.
Axis said the tool is the first emulator to work directly at the register-transfer level without synthesis to gates. It instead compiles into "computing elements," essentially coprocessors, which are then mapped into FPGAs. Axis claims to be able to compile 500,000 to 1 million gates in an hour on eight distributed workstations.
Emulation speed depends on the design, but is typically around 300 to 500 kHz, Wang said. This is roughly comparable to other emulation products and considerably faster than simulation acceleration.
While the Xcite product can be configured either as an e xternal chassis or as boards inside a Sun workstation, SEmulation, which includes all of Xcite's capabilities, will be offered in a desktop chassis only. The first offering will claim a 20 million-gate capacity.