I read with great interest today news from NetSpeed Systems that both their Gemini and Orion NoC IPs have been certified ISO 26262 ASIL D ready. They were certified by SGS-TUV Saar GmbH, an independent accredited assessor. This is a big deal as up till now, it was left up to the OEMs to do most of the heavily lifting to qualify their IC’s interconnect for the ISO automotive functional safety standard. To be clear, they still do, however if they use NetSpeed’s certified NoC IP, a significant burden has been lifted.
To compete in the automotive space, SoC platforms are created and derivatives are generated for market segment differentiation. Many of the big blocks remain the same for the derivatives while new blocks are added and configuration of blocks are changed. The interconnect portion however always changes when doing derivatives. Each time this happens, designers have to re-create a new NoC based on a new floorplan and different anticipated traffic patterns, QoS and safety/security requirements for the design. Doing this by hand is a big burden for designers, especially when you factor in that they must make sure the new NoC now meets all of the new QoS, power, performance and safety requirements and is once again ISO 26262 compliant to the ASIL level required.
NetSpeed’s synthesis capabilities make the task of creating a new NoC incredibly easy. Designers can quickly change constraints and then re-synthesize the NoC. The cool part is that NocStudio, the synthesis tool doing all of this work, now understands the ISO 26262 standard and can give designers an estimate of the new NoC’s ISO 26262 ASIL score and level before it is even synthesized.
At this point, it should be noted that the NetSpeed NoC IP has been certified ready for ASIL-B (90% SPFM) through ASIL-D (99% SPFM) levels depending on how the NoC is configured. It should also be noted that NetSpeed’s solution is the first coherent NoC IP to be certified ISO 26262 ready. This is especially important for state-of-the-art automotive SoCs targeted for autonomous vehicles. Those SoCs have complex interactions among heterogeneous CPU cores, clusters, vision processors and storage and the complexity has gotten to the point that it has become nearly impossible to build these types of interconnects by hand. NetSpeed takes on this challenge leveraging advanced machine learning algorithms to build correct-by-construction designs that can manage the complexity while also ensuring coherency and functional safety as part of the solution.
From the ISO 26262 point of view, NetSpeed’s architecture has safety built in at multiple levels, including defect checks for both end-to-end and hop-to-hop failures. Additionally, NetSpeed lets the designer fully specify NoC master slave relationships not only in terms of QoS and security, but also for specific ASIL targets. Unlike other NoCs, NetSpeed’s NoC IP enables the designer to customize the NoC to be as heterogeneous as the design it serves. Master slave relationships can be set up for varying ASIL coverage and secure and/or non-secure data transmission. Specific masters can also be blocked from specific address ranges that may include multiple slaves. This can be done at synthesis time, creating a hardwired firewall or dynamically at run time, without the need to split the interconnect.
This brings me my last point. As with most problems, the best solutions are those that holistically take into account a problem from the beginning when early design trade-offs can be made with more degrees of freedom. Adding features like NoC coherency and functional safety onto an existing fixed architecture is extremely costly, both in terms of system performance and area. NetSpeed’s ability to synthesize in and optimize both of these functionalities at different levels of granularity makes a huge difference in the quality of the design generated.
A key point here is that NetSpeed is unique in their ability to optimize not only specific QoS, power, performance and area metrics but they can also target specific ISO 26262 ASIL levels in different parts of the system. You can’t do this if you don’t look at the problem holistically.
Interestingly, the ISO standard reviews not only your design, but also your design team and how they do their work. The reason the NetSpeed team is now certified ready for ISO 26262 is because they think holistically and methodically and it shows in their products.