Amid the tumult of SoC design advances and accompanying verification and implementation demands, it can be easy to forget that all this activity is preceded by architecture design. At the architecture stage the usual SoC verification infrastructure is far too cumbersome for quick turnaround modeling. Such platforms also tend to be weak on system-wide insight. Think about modeling an automotive Ethernet to study tradeoffs between zonal and other system architectures. Synopsys Platform Architect is one possible solution though still centered mostly on SoC designers rather than system designers. MATLAB/Simulink offers a system-wide view, but you have to build your own model libraries.
Mirabilis VisualSim Architect offers a model-based design (MBD) system with ready-to-use libraries for popular standards and components in electronic design. They have now added a cloud-based subset of this system plus collateral to universities as a live, actionable training course. Called “Semiconductor and Embedded Systems Architecture Labs” (SEAL), the course provides hands-on training in system design to supplement MBD/MBSE courses.
Mirabilis VisualSim and MBD
Deepak Shankar (Founder at Mirabilis) makes the point that for a university or training center to develop a training platform requires they procure and maintain prototypes and tool platforms and build training material and lab tutorials. This is extremely time-consuming and expensive, and quickly drifts out of date.
VisualSim is a self-contained system plus model library requiring no integration with external hardware, tools or libraries. Even more important the full product is in active use today for production architecture design across an A-list group of semiconductor, systems, mil-aero, space and automotive companies who expect accuracy and currency in the model library. As one recent example, the library contains a model for UCIe, the new standard for coherent communication between chiplets.
Hardware models support a variety of abstractions, from SysML down to cycle accurate, and analog (with linear/differential equation solvers) as well as digital functionality. Similarly, software can evolve from a task-graph model to more fully elaborated code.
The SEAL Program
The lab is offered on the VisualSim Cloud Graphical Simulation Platform, together with training collateral in the form of questions and answer keys. The initial release covers 67 standards and 85 applications. Major applications supported by SEAL include AI, SoC, ADAS, Radars, SDR, IoT, Data Center, Communication, Power, HPC, multi-core, cache coherency, memory, Signal/Image/Audio Processing and Cyber Physical Systems. Major standards supported are UCIe, PCIe6.0, Gigabit Ethernet, AMBA AXI, TSN, CAN-XL, AFDX, ARINC653, DDR5 and processors from ARM, RISC-V, Power and x86.
Examples of labs and questions posed include:
- What is the throughput degradation of multi-die UCIe based SoC versus an AXI based SoC?
- How do autonomous driving timing deadlines change between multi-ECUs vs single HPC ECU?
- How much power is consumed in different orbits of a multi-role satellites?
- Which wired communication technology is more suitable for a flight avionics system – PCIe or Ethernet?
Course work can be graded by university teaching or training staff. Alternatively, Mirabilis is willing to provide certification at two levels. A basic level offers a Certificate of Completion for a student who works through a module and completes the Assessment Questions. More comprehensive options include a Professional Certificate for a student who successfully completes 6 modules, or a Mini Masters in Semiconductor and Embedded Systems for a student who completes 20 modules.
While an MBD system of this type obviously needs some pretty sophisticated underlying technology to manage the multiple different types of simulation needed and stitching required between different modeling styles and abstractions, the practical strength of the system clearly rests on the strength of the library. Deepak tells me their commercial business splits evenly between semiconductor and systems clients, all doing architecture simulation. Working with both types of client keeps their model library tuned to the latest needs.
Semiconductor clients are constantly optimizing or up-revving SoC architectures. Systems clients are doing the same for more distributed system architectures – an automotive network, an O-RAN system, an avionics system, a multi-role satellite system. Which makes me wonder. We all know that system companies are now more heavily involved in SoC design, in support of their distributed systems. Some form of MBD must be the first step in that flow. A platform with models well-tuned (though not limited) to the SoC world might be interesting to such architects I would think?
You can learn more about the SEAL program HERE.