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Data security drives innovative verification capabilities for Systems-on-a-Chip

The protection and integrity of data is a key challenge for organizations and businesses as human interactions with computers have expanded enormously. This has created a vast amount of information and led to the age of “Big Data” where massive, rich data sets are collected and analyzed to advance knowledge and progress in multiple fields. The security of this data has become a critical need. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2021 Data Breach Report, there were 1,862 data breaches in 2021, a 68 percent increase over 2020 and the highest total ever.

Data security is concerned with the access and protection of data from unauthorized users through different forms of encryption, key management and authentication. It provides protection for key assets, such as those related to the following entities:

• Consumers: Data integrity and confidentiality

• Businesses: Reputation, revenue streams and intellectual property

• Governments: National security, defense and key infrastructure

Protection must deter attacks against supply chains, physical attacks, persistent attacks and malicious components. Although a great deal of focus is spent on protecting against attacks on software that is vulnerable to data security attacks, hardware is also increasingly vulnerable, such as in the semiconductor chips that are used in today’s electronic products and components.

The role of verification solutions in PCI Express-based SoC design

Verification solutions are established tools used in the system development flow for electronic components. They are widely used in the pre-silicon verification of SoCs, and model the behavior of industry-standard protocols, such as PCI Express, so that verification engineers can stimulate their pre-silicon design in RTL with realistic vectors in environments that closely match those of the actual chip in its real environment.

Verification solutions are now available in multiple forms, from simulation-based software solutions running on standard computers, known as verification IP, to hardware-based solutions running on dedicated hardware, known as in-circuit solutions (ICE). These ICE solutions connect to a hardware-assisted verification platform where the user’s design is running, boosting the verification performance by up to 1,000s of times than what is achievable in pure software simulation.

In the last decade, pioneering solutions have been developed that can match the performance of in-circuit solutions, but instead of delivering them with dedicated hardware, they are available as software-only verification components, or virtual ICE solutions.

Each of the verification solution types offer their own “sweet-spot” for digital engineers to use in their verification process, depending upon their environment, functionality and overall verification goals for the SoC design.

The trend over the last decade is to move towards virtual ICE solutions, since these offer the most flexibility in terms of performance, debug and user experience in verification.

Pioneering this virtual trend, Siemens EDA created a portfolio of virtual solutions as part of their VirtuaLAB suite to enable pre-silicon verification of SoCs. There are clear advantages to VirtuaLAB that have made this the most revolutionary change in verification solutions in the last 30 years.

VirtuaLAB transforms the hardware-assisted verification world due to the advantages it inherently possesses:

• It has the same functionality as ICE, without the need for dedicated hardware

• Quick and easy to configure

• Multi-user and corporate-wide accessibility

• Highly reliable at a low cost

• Deterministic, repeatable verification results

• Datacenter compatible