Visibility boosts design and test

When it comes to the design and test of hardware and software, it's all about visibility, according to Glenn Woppman, president and CEO of ASSET InterTech, who in a recent phone interview cited three key trends: cores and software-embedded systems are growing exponentially, the deployment of high-speed SerDes (above 5 Gb/s) and fast memory is growing, and packaging technology is becoming more integrated with less I/O access.

These trends present several challenges, Woppman said. With respect to software, debug of in-house code, the proliferatioin of SoC vendor code, and revision management all present challenges. With respect to hardware, signal-integrity measurements can no longer be done via probes, because of lack of access and the fact that test points add capacitance. “External instruments don't see what the silicon sees,” Woppman said.

To deal with such problems, Intel, for example, has developed what it calls Intel Silicon View Technology, or Intel SVT. Intel SVT is a set of capabilities embedded in Intel processors and chipsets that enable platform debug and electrical validation; it also supports manufacturing test.

ASSET-InterTech announced last month that its ScanWorks platform supports Intel SVT. Specifically, ScanWorks HSIO tools work with the Intel SVT electrical validation capabilities to measure and optimize operational timing and voltage margins on high-speed data links and buses; ScanWorks functions interactively with Intel SVT to investigate the root causes of low operating margins on these buses. In a board manufacturing test setting, ScanWorks Boundary-Scan Test (BST) and Processor-Controlled Test (PCT) function with Intel SVT to test and diagnose both structural and at-speed defects.

With the recent announcement that ASSET has acquired Arium, ASSET adds an additional level of support for Intel SVT, with the ScanWorks Arium complementing ScanWorks HSIO, BST, and PCT to facilitate platform debug as well as electrical verification and manufacturing test. Woppman noted that the combination also supports ARM, which is competing with Intel.

Woppman said ScanWorks now gives users visibility into registers, code, buses, memory, and SoCs, thereby supporting faster bring-up of prototypes and faster transition of designs into manufacturing.

Woppman described software as at a tipping point. “Software is exploding,” he said. “It's not incremental—it's exponential. Software can make or break a system,” he said, adding that hardware is only as good as the software above it. With the addition of Arium to the ScanWorks platform, he said, ScanWorks takes on a larger role in system debug with Arium's hardware-assisted debug tools bridging the hardware/software chasm. For board design, he said, the result is reduced schedule risk and accelerated development cycles.

Woppman said he sees two populations for his firm's capabilities after the Arium acquisition. One group will want the full visibility into all registers that ScanWorks provides. Another will want to assume the hardware works and focus on software. For that latter group, the Arium tool will still be available.

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