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Thoughts on AMS Verification Inspired by the DV Club Lunch

Comments(1)Filed under: Functional Verification, Verification methodology , verification strategy, AMS

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a DV Club lunch presentation from Dr. Henry Chang of Designers' Guide Consulting on "What the Digital Verification Engineer Needs to Know about Analog Verification".

The talk was very engaging, where Dr. Chang's comments on the relatively primitive state of analog verification confirmed my observations in talking with customers and Trailblazer partners.  Specifically:

1 - In the eyes of digital verification people, analog verification looks like digital verification circa 1990.  This isn't meant as a criticism of analog developers -- Dr. Chang reviewed the many reasons why this gap exists, and why they will likely persist for years into the future.  For example, in order to effectively support the hierarchical circuit construction methodologies commonly used in the digital world, depending on the type circuit you are simulating analog simulators would have to become literally 1,000,000 times faster than they are today.

2 - Dr. Chang noted that very trivial, functional A-D interface errors are depressingly common in mixed signal designs.  Even worse: such bugs are typically catastrophic (i.e. the chip is dead-on-arrival from the fab)

3 - The level of automation vs. the digital world is very low.  Despite the growing complexity of pure analog blocks, most design entry is still done with schematic capture and not high-level design languages (although this is slowly changing).  Debug?  It's all about eyeballing golden waveforms.

There was much more to the talk, but these three highlights stood out in my mind because myself and my fellow Trailblazers have also seen 1, 2, and 3 in our customer base.  As such, I was "relieved" (in an ironic, negative sense) to hear that an expert like Dr. Chang is seeing the same things too.  Do you out there in the blogsphere see all this too?  Have you seen any analog users overcome 1, 2, or 3?

In a vaguely related note:
Driving back to my office from the talk, I was also struck by an analogy to the hardware/software co-verification space, where verification in this mixed domain is also relatively primitive compared to pure digital RTL verification.  My colleague Jason Andrews captures this issue nicely in his recent post "Is anybody out there a Software Verification Engineer?"

In conclusion, I'd argue that at the 50,000ft level, issues 1 and 2 are factors in both the AMS and HW/SW domains (and for issue 3, you have to admit there is a lot of "bad" automation in the HW/SW domain; but that's the subject of another blog post).  The silver lining in these clouds is that the hunger for automated, metric-driven solutions in the AMS space is growing, and thus the EDA business has some future opportunities here whatever doldrums the economy might be in today.

P.S. If you haven't been to one of these "DV Club" events, you are really missing out.  The format is typically an in depth talk on some design or verification topic given over lunch, and the speakers have always been very informative.  These events also draw a good sized audience (I've never seen less than 50 people at the Silicon Valley area events I go to), so the networking is great.  Note that in addition to Silicon Valley, they hold these "lunch & learns" in Austin, Bangalore, Boston, Bristol UK, Dallas, RTP, and San Diego.  Here is the DV Club events calendar for more info:



By Amritapuri on November 18, 2008
Thanks for the DV Club news...

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