SAN JOSE, Calif. With the rollout of its VStation-5Mx replicate station this week, Ikos Systems Inc. claims it can offer replicated emulation systems to software developers for as little as 4 cents per gate. By using scaled-down hardware as well as software, the new replicate weighs in at about one-eighth the cost of the full-fledged VStation-5M, the company's 5-million-gate emulator.
Replicates are low-cost versions of emulation or prototyping systems designed for proliferation across a design team. The VStation-5Mx lacks capabilities for hardware debugging and emulation and functions as a "virtual ASIC" that allows software developers to build applications before silicon is complete.
Linda Prouse Fosler, vice president of marketing at Ikos Systems, said she believes Ikos is the only company that offers replicates for full emulation. "We're seeing emulation move into the whole design team, so we've respo nded with the replicate scenario," she said.
Ikos claims that its VirtualWires technology makes replication easier than it would be for competing emulation systems. A database compiled for one VStation will perform identically in all VStation platforms, the company said, because the user's design is isolated from the setup and hold constraints of each FPGA.
Ikos earlier offered an emulation replicate called Avatar, but it had the same hardware as the full-fledged emulator, said Jeurgen Jaeger, Ikos director of channel marketing. Thus, the price difference between Avatar and the full-fledged emulator was relatively low, he said.
VStation-5Mx, in contrast, uses the same chassis as the full-fledged emulator, but the FPGA boards are different. "For a full-fledged emulator you need a logic analyzer, probing and sampling memory on the boards, which is pretty expensive," Jaeger said. "Replicates are intended mainly for software designers they don't want visibility into the hardware itself."
T he trade-off, however, is that the replicate can never be upgraded into a full-emulation system. And the replicates can only be used if the customer has at least one VStation-5M.
While the VStation-5Mx doesn't allow hardware debugging, it does include a software debugging interface. Moreover, Ikos' "co-modeling" capability is a transaction-based interface that connects the replicate or emulator to software models running on a workstation. This permits concurrent software and hardware verification.
The VStation-5Mx runs no compilation but uses the same binary database as the full-fledged emulator. "There is no doubt in the user's mind that you're running exactly the same design on the replicate as on the emulation station," said Jaeger. "Once you have the design up and running on the emulator, it's just a download of a few minutes, and the replicate is up and running."
Any number of replicates can be used with a single emulator. The VStation-5Mx is available now at about 6 cents per gate for one t o five systems, or 4 cents/gate for five or more. In the latter case, a 5-million-gate replicate would sell for under $200,000, compared with well over $1 million for a full-fledged emulator.
Ikos promises a replicate for its 15-million-gate VStation-15M in early 2002.