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How UVM Will Support TLM Design And Verification

Comments(0)Filed under: Industry Insights, SystemC, High-level Synthesis, TLM, TLM-2.0, verification, e, UVM, SystemVerilog

Cadence last week announced the publication of two books - one about the Universal Verification Methodology (UVM), and one about transaction-level modeling (TLM) design and verification. I noticed that there's a lot of discussion about UVM in the TLM book, and several sections about TLM in the UVM book. The current UVM 1.0 EA (early adopter) release focuses on RTL and SystemVerilog. So, what's the connection between UVM and TLM?

To gain some insights, I talked to Cadence co-authors of both books. These include Mike Stellfox, co-author of TLM-Driven Design and Verification Methodology, and Sharon Rosenberg, co-author of A Practical Guide to Adopting the Universal Verification Methodology (UVM). Both noted that UVM provides an infrastructure that will help facilitate the move to TLM design and verification. They also talked about work Cadence is doing to extend UVM to TLM verification and to multi-language support.

With the move to TLM-based design, "the verification problem statement is the same. We still have to exhaustively verify a DUT [design under test]," Mike said. "The difference is that the design is now captured at TLM, not RTL. So, we wanted to leverage the best practices and proven methods that were put into UVM, and extend UVM to enable it to work for TLM based designs."

TLM Already There

Reminder: UVM 1.0 EA is basically OVM 2.1.1 with the "O" changed to "U," plus some minor enhancements.  So, what is said here about UVM 1.0 EA also generally applies to OVM 2.1.1. Tom Alsop, Accellera VIP technical steering committee co-chair, issued a  statement on that Accellera intends for UVM 1.0 EA to be backwards compatible with the upcoming UVM 1.0 release.  Meanwhile, UVM 1.0 EA is an "emerging" standard, not a full Accellera standard yet.

UVM 1.0 EA uses OSCI TLM 1.0 APIs to communicate among verification components (called UVCs in UVM). Communicating at the transaction level facilitates reuse, and opens the door to communication with UVCs written in different languages. Sharon noted that all of TLM 1.0, including analysis ports, are included in the OSCI TLM 2.0 release.

Transaction-level modeling is nothing new for OVM/UVM users. As the UVM book notes in chapter 4.6, "TLM has been used within testbenches for many years. In general, any testbench is at the transaction level if it has components that create stimulus or that do coverage or checks using transactions rather than using clock cycle level behavior. To verify RTL DUTs, such testbenches use transactors (sometimes called bus functional models or BFMs) to convert between the transaction level and the RTL."

So, conceptually, the move to a TLM design and verification flow is not a huge leap for verification engineers. In this sense they're ahead of their designer colleagues. What's new is the verification of TLM design models.

Adding TLM Support

An important principle that comes with TLM design and verification is "localization." As TLM book co-author Yoshi Watanabe noted in a recent author roundtable discussion, if you make design decisions at the transaction level, you want to verify those decisions there - not wait for RTL verification.

While it's not part of the emerging standard yet, Cadence has done some work to extend UVM for TLM verification. Mike noted that UVM today uses a signal-level driver to connect to RTL designs. "For TLM, we basically replace that driver with a driver that drives at the transaction level. It's pretty natural because the rest of the testbench is usually at the transaction level anyway."

Sharon noted that Cadence UVM extensions include the "generic payload" (GP) concept from the TLM 2.0 standard. Basically, this makes it possible to work at a high level of abstraction without specifying a protocol. There's further discussion about the UVM GP package and other UVM TLM extensions in the TLM book.

Finally, as was done for OVM, Cadence is working to bring multi-language support to UVM. This is key for verifying SystemC TLM designs. Multi-language support will also include the Specman e language. The TLM book states that "e is the best language for TLM verification" given its maturity, independence from design language, abstraction, high performance, and aspect-oriented programming abilities.

Cadence has also adopted UVM SystemVerilog for TLM verification, even though SystemVerilog was really designed as one language for design and verification based on RTL Verilog.

Accelerating Adoption

As of today, Mike noted, many users of high-level synthesis still do most or all of their verification at the register-transfer level. "We're not really helping the customer if we can't move verification up to the same [TLM] level," he said. "The fact that we're doing it by providing this methodology in the [TLM] book, and doing it based on something already familiar to the verification community [UVM], will accelerate the adoption of TLM-based design."

The only downside here is that forward-looking OVM/UVM users might need to buy two books! Ordering information is available by following the links in the second paragraph of this posting.

Other Blogs About the Books

New UVM Book is for You and U but not Ewe  (Cadence Functional Verification)

Video Interview: UVM Book Authors Sharon Rosenberg and Kathleen Meade (Cadence Functional Verification)

New Book: TLM-Driven Design and Verification Methodology (Brian Bailey,

Author Roundtable: New TLM Design and Verification Book (Cadence Industry Insights)

Richard Goering



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