Simple Concepts Can Lead To Big Improvements

Starting software development early results in better optimization of hardware and software.

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By Tom De Schutter
As I am just back from vacation, it is an ideal time to reflect on where we are with virtual prototyping and VDKs (Virtualizer Development Kits). For more than a year now we have been developing reference VDKs based on ARM’s Versatile Express board, and it has really made a difference in how we engage with customers.

Although we always had demos, which were similar to these reference VDKs, having a quality product deliverable that can be used out-of-the-box with software developers makes a big difference. It has helped with the adoption of VDKs at multiple companies across industries and geographies. With only minor additions, or sometimes even no additions, software developers at these customers have been able to bootstrap their device driver, boot code and OS code bring up.

On top of that, VDKs are helping companies across the supply chain to enable early software development. Semiconductor companies can quickly assemble a VDK for the relevant part of their SoC (depending on the software task) and develop their specific hardware dependent software such as device drivers for all the interface IP of the SoC. System companies can then receive that VDK from their semiconductor vendor and bring up their unique software content without having to wait for board availability.

Just recently a company in one part of the world licensed our VDK for ARM big.LITTLE processing. They are in the midst of doing some minor customizations to tune the VDK toward their specific SoC. This is possible as they only have to care about the pieces that are relevant for the software they and their customer want to bring up. Once the relevant drivers are developed and validated, they plan to ship the VDK with their software to their systems company customer on the other side of the world.

That customer also just licensed our VDK technology to ramp up on the key debug and analysis capabilities that VDKs offer and will be instantly ready to start bring up of their customized OS. By adopting the virtual prototyping methodology and leveraging our reference VDKs, these companies are able to significantly accelerate the schedule of their software availability and in the process improve quality, as the software and hardware are tested together before the hardware is completely fixed. This parallel effort results in the software and hardware being better tuned for each other.

Simple concepts can lead to big improvements. And what is more logical than starting your software development early by creating a flexible C-model of your design. This recent example of early software development across such distributed companies and geographies shows that more and more companies are coming to this realization.

—Tom De Schutter is senior product marketing manager for Virtualizer Solutions at Synopsys.