Fast FPGA-Emulation-Based Simulation Environment for Custom Processors

Yuichi NAKAMURA  Kouhei HOSOKAWA  

Publication
IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Fundamentals of Electronics, Communications and Computer Sciences   Vol.E89-A   No.12   pp.3464-3470
Publication Date: 2006/12/01
Online ISSN: 1745-1337
DOI: 10.1093/ietfec/e89-a.12.3464
Print ISSN: 0916-8508
Type of Manuscript: Special Section PAPER (Special Section on VLSI Design and CAD Algorithms)
Category: Simulation and Verification
Keyword: 
custom processor,  simulation,  emulation,  FPGA,  

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Summary: 
This paper describes a new method for the simulation environment for a custom processor. It is generally very hard to develop an accurate simulator for a custom processor rapidly, even if simple instruction-set-level simulator (ISS). The proposed method uses a field-programmable-gate-array emulator with a PCI interface and debugging GUI software on a PC. Since the emulator implements the processor design at the register-transfer or net-list level, the emulation results are almost the same as the results obtained with the actual processor. To support rich debugging functions like those provided by the conventional software simulator, we use a debugging buffer and break-control circuits. Experimental results show that a simulator constructed by the proposed method can be constructed within several hours and that it can break the processor operation at any specified point and observe the internal signals when the emulated system is running at 1-30 MHz. The accuracy of the constructed simulator is the same as that of RTL simulation and much higher than that of software ISS simulation. We show that we can provide a fast, accurate, and useful simulator for any processor design specified at the register-transfer level.