Electronic Design

Full-System Simulator Creates Virtual Test Labs

Designers usually consider simulation at the functional-block level, and more generally in the context of system-on-a-chip or ASIC design. But large companies are beginning to find value in a new generation of full-system simulators that "virtualize" entire systems, unchanged, including operating systems, BIOS, firmware, drivers, and application software.

To Virtutech, a 1998 spinoff from the Swedish Institute of Computer Science, virtualization not only means more than the ability to simulate large complete systems. It also represents the ability to do so on commodity computers like PCs and engineering workstations. Simics 2.0 is the latest version of Virtutech's full-system simulation technology, and it accomplishes the goal of building virtual test laboratories that run on ordinary PCs.

Simics 2.0 can run instruction-set simulations at speeds of over 1 billion simulated instructions per second. Under certain conditions, it can run many times faster than real time. By simulating entire systems, it can prove invaluable to both hardware and software development teams by making a model available long before a hardware prototype is complete. With software development often representing the biggest roadblock to shipment of the end product, getting a head start on software can be huge.

Simics is agnostic in its support for processors, enabling any processor architecture to be simulated on any other architecture. It can simulate heterogeneous systems containing several different processor architectures, even allowing them to share memory.

It's also highly scalable, supporting simulated systems with hundreds of simulated processors. Simics has distributed simulation support, permitting several simulation processes on one or more machines, all sharing the same virtual time. In fact, Virtutech demonstrated a simulation of 1000 networked processors running across 10 Simics sessions on 10 machines at this year's Embedded Systems Conference.

Pricing for Simics varies widely based on use and model requirements. Virtutech has a large library of models of processors and standards-based peripherals already built and ready for use.

Virtutech Inc.

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