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SemiEng: Who Does Processor Validation?

Heterogeneous designs and AI/ML processing expose the limitations of existing methodologies and tools.

Semiconductor Engineering


Defining what a processor is, and what it is supposed to do, is not always as easy as it sounds. In fact, companies are struggling with the implications of hundreds of heterogenous processing elements crammed into a single chip or package. Companies have extensive verification methodologies, but not for validation. Verification is a process of ensuring that an implementation matches a specification, and companies today have extensive verification methodologies. In comparison, validation is making sure the specification is right and fit for purpose. An important aspect for processor is whether they correctly execute code that targets the specification and meets the requirements?

It takes Arm more than 11,000 pages of dense text to define its family of processors. And that only works because it controls everything about those processors, starting with the instruction set and the micro-architecture. Even the more recent forms of extensibility are very constrained, and architectural licensees only get to change the micro-architecture.

For an extensible processor architecture, such as RISC-V, the notion of validation is a herculean task because of the degrees of freedom that are central to its concept…


To read the full Semiconductor Engineering article by Brian Bailey, click here.