Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Electronic System Level (ESL) Tools Market: Virtual System Prototyping/Simulation Tools Predicted to Grow Fastest

Recently published research by Venture Development Corporation found that virtual system prototyping/simulation tools were the fastest growing segment of the ESL tools market.
With the complexity of both hardware and software growing significantly, the challenge of designing and testing software earlier in the design process is becoming an increasingly significant factor, especially in cases where the hardware environment may be extremely complex and/or not yet available. In addition to the continued use of physical prototyping, VDC expects an increased use of virtual prototyping methods as a strategy for developing software more efficiently and validating software/hardware interaction earlier in the design process.

VDC defines virtual system prototyping/simulation tools as ESL tools that enable the creation, assembly, and simulation of hardware/system designs modeled at a high level of abstraction and offer simulation speeds fast enough to enable efficient software development. “In our view, these tools differ from instruction set simulators in the degree of speed, cycle accuracy, and system simulation coverage that they can provide,” says Matt Volckmann, Senior Analyst with VDC’s Embedded Software Practice. “Within the ESL market, these tools stand out as the segment most directly addressing issues related to complex hardware/software interaction, while also addressing the issue of the larger ‘system’ outside of an IC or SoC.”

In addition to allowing for earlier software development and fast execution of complex hardware architectures, virtual system prototyping/simulation tools also offer a number of other potential benefits to their users. According to Volckmann, “Virtual system prototyping/simulation tools offer portability and replicability benefits, that enable distributed teams to have access to identical versions of common virtual prototypes. These tools also promise greater visibility into complex systems, allowing developers to use advanced debugging methods and more comprehensively observe system function without the need for sophisticated probing techniques applied to physical hardware.”

While VDC predicts market growth over the next several years, this market is also not without its limitations. VDC believes that the time and resources required to build usable virtual prototypes of hardware as well as remaining questions about which engineering teams (either internally, within the supply chain, or a combination of both) should take ownership of designing and managing virtual hardware models remain key questions within the market.

For access to the full article, click here.