Electronic Design

Inline Error-Injection Tool Stress-Tests PCI Express Links

PCI Express technology, originally targeted at computers and servers, is enjoying rapid proliferation into other application areas, including enterprise storage and local-area networks. Aerospace and defense systems houses are now switching over from parallel buses to serial technologies like PCI Express to satisfy their growing need for bandwidth. And, PCI Express is turning up in consumer graphics and imaging products like cameras and printers.

Along with this proliferation of PCI Express technology comes an increased need for tools with which to verify compliance to the standard. Even though a given device may be compliant, that device’s behavior will vary depending on the implementation, and even with the operating system and drivers associated with it for that matter. Handling this kind of testing in a deterministic manner is becoming more difficult over time.

Fitting in on the stimulus side of Agilent’s portfolio is the N523A PCI Express Jammer, an inline tool that rides on the PCI Express bus between the host system’s motherboard and an endpoint DUT. From that vantage point, it’s in position to perform disruptive tests of PCI Express devices and drivers in live systems regardless of the operating system and application type. Testing with the Jammer is transparent to the system topology. It offers configurable error-rate injection through a software-based sequencer.

As an example of a typical use case, consider the challenges of an IP provider who must prove the reliability of its PCI Express silicon, IP, or core. Such cases require a reproducible and structured means of achieving test coverage. In such uses, the Jammer is able to test beyond specification requirements to unravel the details of the IP or core’s behavior. The Jammer employs fine-grained control of error insertion to ensure structured and complete test coverage. It then delivers a statistical treatment of test coverage reporting.

Another application is for add-in card manufacturers who need a simple and cost-effective test method that allows testing in a live environment with hardware, operating system, and drivers all loaded in a full system. Here again, the Jammer’s benefits are clear. The transparent nature of the system’s setup makes it straightforward and quick to get to the first tests. The graphical sequencer software for error-injection control shortens test execution time, as there are no scripts or code to write. Finally, the Jammer’s architecture enables normal operation and error injection in live systems.

The N5323A PCI Express Jammer is available now with various options, such as X1, X4, or X8 lane widths. There are also models supporting both the PCI Express 1.0 and 2.0 standards. Pricing starts at $27,500 for a single-lane, PCI Express 1.0 (2.5 Gtransfers/s) tester.

Agilent Technologies

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