Rockwell Collins currently tests their digital hardware designs using software simulation. Simulations of complex digital hardware designs, such as communication interfaces and video processing components, result in a computational bottleneck at the CPU, and require an impractical amount of time to test using the conventional method of software simulation. Hardware Integrated Prototype Environment (HIPE) was developed as a method to test digital hardware designs faster than it is possible than with software simulation alone.
HIPE provides an interface between the user’s simulation environment and a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) containing a Design Under Test (DUT). This interface eliminates the need to simulate the DUT using software and thereby reduces the computational load on the CPU.
Within the simulation environment, a HIPE module written in SystemVerilog replaces the user’s DUT, interfaces with the user’s testbench, and transmits the testbench’s data to a TCP Client, written in C++. HIPE’s TCP client utilizes HIPE C++ libraries to convert the incoming data to Tool Command Language (TCL) commands and then sends these commands to a TCP server, written in TCL. The TCP server utilizes a Quartus library to execute the incoming commands and communicate with the user’s HIPE-integrated DUT on an Altera FPGA via a USB-JTAG connection. Data from the user’s DUT is transmitted back through HIPE’s communication chain to the simulation environment. The data is then displayed in ModelSim’s Wave Viewer window.
HIPE has successfully met and exceeded all specifications. HIPE was tested using ModelSim 10.1d, a Hardware Description Language (HDL) simulation tool, on Ubuntu 12.04 with several known working DUTs. For a 190-bit operand Array Multiplier DUT, a simulation utilizing HIPE performed 16 times faster than its respective baseline simulation and demonstrated a consistent 280 transactions per second (8 signals per transaction). When integrated with a DUT, HIPE added an average of less than one logic element per signal connected to HIPE. HIPE’s communication speed can be improved in the future by increasing the number of signals per transaction, resolving communication delay issues, and replacing the TCP Server/Client with an alternative communication method.