One of the biggest challenges facing NVidia is the verification of software
applications in the context of overall system designs, according to Narendra
Konda, director of hardware engineering at NVidia. Konda was a speaker at the
Cadence EDA360 introductory event
at the San Jose Tech Museum
April 27, and he spoke about his company's experience with the Palladium
XP verification computing platform, introduced April 26.
Cadence is positioning the Palladium XP, which integrates
emulation, acceleration, and simulation, as a step towards the System
Realization aspect of EDA360, which seeks to enable integrated
hardware/software platforms ready for applications deployment. That's what
semiconductor companies such as NVidia are now expected to provide. To do so,
it is very helpful to test applications in a real-world environment before
silicon is available. This requires both accuracy and speed.
Narendra Konda spoke
at an EDA360 introductory event for press, partners and customers.
Konda left no doubt about the importance of software applications
at NVidia. He noted that the company has multiple software teams developing a
wide range of applications for its GPUs, and not just graphics applications,
but compute-related tasks as well. Many different operating systems must be
supported - Windows, Linux, Apple, and others. NVidia wants to make sure
applications will work before silicon is finalized.
"Before silicon comes back from the fab, I want to be able
to run all my applications, all my games, all my workloads, and make sure they are
100 percent working at the system level," Konda said. "Once I can run all my
applications, I can be comfortable the system is ready to go." This means
NVidia needs to bring its largest GPUs into the verification environment.
That's pretty big. NVidia GPUs, Konda said, have up to 3 billion transistors
and 512 processor cores, providing the compute power of a "supercomputer" a
Konda identified three system integration steps. One is to
design and verify the silicon itself. Another is to plug the silicon into a
representation of the overall system (such as a PC) and verify that the GPU
works at a system level. A third is to run lots of software applications on the
With pure simulation, Konda noted, running a single application
could take days or weeks. That's unacceptable. "We cannot be productive, or get
a chip out on time, if one simulation takes a week to ten days. We want to run
at several megahertz, but simulation runs at kilohertz." (Palladium XP
emulation runs at 2-4 MHz).
Low power design is another concern. "I want to run power
analysis and get feedback really fast," Konda said. "Once I analyze what kind
of power the device is consuming, I can make architectural decisions or
redesign the chip to reduce power."
Palladium XP, Konda said, "brings together software people,
hardware people, and marketing people." Marketing people? Yes, he said,
marketing people can leverage a hardware model to run rapid what-if scenarios
and decide what capabilities they really want a new chip to provide, based on
At the end of the day, System Realization is about company
culture as well as new tools and methodologies. "Unless people start talking to
each other, it's really hard to do the integration," Konda said. "I think [Palladium
XP] is one place where all the teams interact in real time."