Chip Monitoring For Max Performance And Security

System visibility brings lifecycle management to SoCs.


In a semiconductor market dominated by SoCs for high-performance computing, AI, automotive and 5G, semiconductor companies face myriad challenges and device requirements. The specific challenges for any given SoC vary but can include issues around performance debug and security against hacking. Top of the list includes the need to ensure quality, enhance safety, optimize performance, and increase reliability. All this can be accomplished by embedding small modules directly into your SoC that allow non-intrusive observation of what’s happening in your design when operational software is running on the system.

This is the premise of my presentation at the recent India Tech Forum, a symposium for users of the Siemens test and embedded analytics solutions. This year marked a vigorous rebound from the empty pandemic-era gatherings. It was a full house!

My talk was about how advanced chip monitoring can solve so many of the common issues facing SoC projects. Have you ever needed answers to these questions:

  • Why does the system occasionally hand or lock?
  • Is that bus transaction authorized?
  • Why is the CPU slower than expected?
  • Why do some DMA transfers take too long?
  • What is the mismatch between the hose CPU and the DSP?
  • Can I trust the system security?
  • What’s going on with my memory controller?
  • How do I cat reliable real-time performance data with real software loads?

Embedded monitors can help you find the answers to all those questions and more, and not just during SoC development. An SoC instrumentation with Embedded Analytics lets you monitor and manage devices through their operational life in the field. In some industries, like automotive, this is already mandatory as part of a defense in depth strategy. Our portfolio of IP blocks, software, APIs and application software give detailed insights into any system, subsystem or component – from design, bring-up, and in-life deployment. Figure 1 shows examples of analytic charts created from embedded monitors.

Fig. 1: Examples of analytic charts created from the data gathered by embedded monitors.

You can find relevant patterns and valuable insights in a broad range of situations. SoC verification teams can feed insights back to the SoC design team. You can detect and block on-chip transactions that fall outside of parameters and combine on-chip and off-chip analytics as needed. The result is a single data analytics platform that covers SoC development and embedded system operations. This investment offers a clear return: the value of system-level data for improving not just the design process but keeping the chip safe and secure in the field through over-the-air updates stands as a clear competitive advantage.

Embedded monitors for system debug, validation, and optimization

There is a recommended set of Embedded Analytics IP (figure 2) that establish a complete monitoring, analysis, and secure communication network for use in debug, validation, and optimization. We have debug capabilities for single or heterogenous multi-core RISC-V, Arm, Xtensa, CEVA DSP, and VLIW that include code debug, efficient trace, on-chip communications, interface options and a software toolkit. The debug solution covers the entire SoC, not just a core, and lets software engineers efficiently debug complex interactions between software and system components and to optimize the system performance.

Fig. 2: A recommended set of Tessent Embedded Analytics IP.

Embedded monitors for in-life management

After the SoC is deployed into a system, we lose visibility into the hardware/software interactions. But with full visibility into deployed systems, you see exactly what’s happening and can optimize and debug throughout the entire system lifecycle (figure 3).

Fig. 3: In-life management and system lifecycle solutions.

Embedded analytic monitors in deployed SoCs help you optimize software to achieve better performance and efficiency, speed up root-cause analysis of bugs to improve customer satisfaction, and use historical performance data to inform designs of next-generation chips. The uses include performance monitoring in data centers to safety-system debug in automobiles and more.

Our portfolio of IP blocks, software, APIs and application software give detailed insights into any system, subsystem or component. It includes hardware threat detection and mitigation to augment software-based security. Designers get an accurate and coherent picture of the whole system and the ability to monitor, analyze and fix performance and behavior. The in-life monitoring keeps the channel open for the lifetime of the device. The monitors generate a lot of data, so we also provide powerful tools to generate useful insights from the data.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of performance, reliability, safety, and security for high-performance computing, AI, automotive, and 5G. Advanced chip monitoring can solve many common issues facing SoC projects by enabling visibility into the system. Embedded monitors can help find answers to questions related to system performance and security, not just during SoC development but throughout the system lifecycle. Tessent Embedded Analytics is a unique and market-leading solution for complex SoCs, providing designers with visibility into the whole system and the ability to monitor and control performance and behavior.

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