For years one of the objectives in EDA has been to make formal property checking easy to use and its results easy to understand. With the Automatic formal check feature in the June release of the 0-In Formal tool version 3.0, I think we have made significant progress in this area.
The feature, which predefines a set of assertion rules to look for design issues automatically, makes formal technology accessible to users who are not yet ready to write properties in System Verilog Assertion (SVA) or Property Specification Language (PSL). To make it easier to comprehend problems in the design, the tool highlights the violations back to the RTL code.
Automatic formal check focuses on three areas inadequately addressed by dynamical simulation:
The first area is functional coverage. Today, when constrained random simulation fails to achieve the targeted coverage goal, engineers have to fine tune the environment or add new tests. These efforts, often attempted relatively late in the verification cycle, can consume vast amounts of time and resources while still failing to reach parts of the design. In contrast, automatic formal check can be used to identify unreachable code early in the verification cycle. These targets can be eliminated from the coverage model. As a result, the coverage measurement is more accurate and you know when you are done.
The next area is design initialization. If a design cannot be initialized reliably in silicon, it will not function correctly. An obvious precursor then is making sure all the registers are initialized correctly at RTL. If X’es are used, we need to monitor the X creation, propagation and usage cycle. Dynamic simulation does not interpret X’es accurately as in silicon, which has only 1s and 0s. Automatic formal check is ideal in verifying register initialization under different modes or configurations. Then, with internal assertions and formal technologies, we can check that although X’es are created, they are not used by downstream registers.
The final area is corner case design issues. Time and time again, designers unintentionally write code that violates logical correctness. Examples include combinational loops, full case violations, parallel case violations, undriven logic, finite-state machine (FSM) deadlocks and FSM livelocks. Unless tests are written to specifically target these corner case design issues are, such issues are difficult to exercise. On the other hand, by formally analyzing the design semantics, automatic formal check identifies these design issues statically and creates the stimuli to highlight them to the users.
If you are interested to know more about the automatic formal check feature in 0-In Formal, please feel free to register for our upcoming seminar in San Jose.