Debug over USB capability offers system insights in complex SoCs
EDN Europe recently reported on UltraSoC’s higher visibility with its new CEO, who offered some insights into its core business (story; here); the company’s latest announcement relates to its technology that allows a single high-speed chip interface – in this case USB 2.0 – to be used simultaneously for both system communication and for analytics applications such as debugging. Future developments will support other standard interfaces, such as Ethernet or PCIe.
UltraDebug helps engineers to understand the complex interactions between software and hardware in today’s complex chips, which frequently boast several billion transistors running tens of thousands of lines of software code. Adding dedicated analytics circuitry to the chip dramatically simplifies the process of debugging – a process which today commonly consumes up to half of the total development time of a large SoC.
Traditionally, designers have relied on debug-specific interfaces – typically JTAG – to “look in” to their chips and analyse their behaviour. UltraDebug allows this to be done via an external interface – in this case USB – that is already an intrinsic part of the device’s design. The approach brings many benefits: it is not necessary to provide dedicated I/O pins on the device for debugging; data transfer can be accomplished much more quickly; and the interface remains accessible even once the chip has been assembled into an end product and shipped to the customer. This allows system designers to analyse problems and fine-tune the performance of a product such as a smartphone or a hard disk drive throughout its useful lifetime.
UltraDebug is delivered as silicon IP for integration into the chip design. It provides a holistic, configurable analytics solution that is compatible with IP and processor blocks from any vendor – and is particularly powerful when used in heterogenous systems that include IP from multiple sources. The USB connectivity feature is backed with advanced security features such as challenge/response capability, cryptographic protection and the ability to completely disable the debug facility, allowing OEMs to deploy products that integrate UltraDebug features with complete confidence.
“We’re now able to offer levels of connectivity that befit the advanced features of UltraDebug,” said Rupert Baines, UltraSoC CEO. “And USB is just the beginning. In a world of 50 billion connected devices, being able to remotely optimise an embedded system is a very powerful capability. We can apply this technology via any communications interface: if your SoC has Ethernet, you can use that for debug; if it’s PCIe, that’s possible too. We’ll be saying more about those capabilities soon.”