Dv club09 async_sva
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5

Like this? Share it with your network

  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Be the first to comment
No Downloads


Total Views
On Slideshare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds



Embeds 0

No embeds

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

    No notes for slide


  • 1. The SystemVerilog Assertion (SVA) language offers a very powerful way to describe design properties and temporal behaviors; however, they are innately synchronous due to how they are defined by the SystemVerilog standard. Unfortunately, this makes them especially hard to use for checking asynchronous events and behaviors. Notwithstanding, armed with the proper techniques, SVA can be used to effectively describe and check both synchronous and asynchronous assertions. 1
  • 2. First, let’s start our discussion by having a look at asynchronous behaviors and the challenges that they present. 2
  • 3. Asynchronous behaviors typically come in two forms: (1) asynchronous control signals, and (2) asynchronous communication. Most designs have some kind of asynchronous event like an asynchronous reset, enable, non-maskable interrupt, etc. Even if these events are synchronized within to a clock, they may occur at any time, preempting the current operation of the design, and should immediately trigger an assertion to check that the design properly responds to the event. The second form of asynchronous behavior is asynchronous communication. This is seen with communication across clock domains or on interfaces that use some kind of asynchronous handshaking. See the following paper for details on handling these behaviors: Doug Smith. “Asynchronous Behaviors Meet Their Match with SVA,” DVCon Proceedings, San Jose, February 2010. This paper is also available from www.doulos.com. 3
  • 4. Let’s have a look at the first type of behavior—asynchronous control signals. To understand the difficulties, we’ll start by having a look at a simple up-down counter. The table here shows the proper behavior of this counter. The asynchronous control is the reset that causes the design to immediately change to 0. 4
  • 5. If we were to write assertions for this counter, they might look something like this. These assertions are rather straightforward since checking always happens on the rising edge of the clock. But what about the asynchronous reset? How do we incorporate that into our assertions? 5
  • 6. A common mistake would be to add Reset into our assertion precondition as shown here. While this looks like it would work, we might actually encounter false failures from this. As you can see, when reset occurs, the value of Q immediate resets to 0. On the next clock cycle when the precondition is evaluated, the asserted Reset will stop the precondition from spawning a thread and the check from occurring just as we intended. The problem lies with the cycle before Reset occurs. The cycle before, the precondition is met, an assertion thread is spawned, and the checker waits to check the condition on the next clock edge. Before the check is evaluated, the Reset signal asserts, changing the actual value of Q from the expected and the assertion throws a false failure. 6
  • 7. What we really need is some way to not only stop the evaluation of an assertion when Reset occurs, but also kill any threads waiting to check when the reset asserts. The “disable iff” abort terminator allows us to do just that. As soon as the Reset signal occurs, the level-sensitive abort terminator stops both the evaluation of the assertion and kills any processing threads. As a general rule of thumb, all assertion sensitive to an asynchronous signal should use a “disable iff” qualifying expression. 7
  • 8. Disable iff handles terminating our assertions, but what about checking that the RTL does the correct thing when the asynchronous reset occurs? To write such an assertion, we might write something as shown here---when the Reset goes high, then check that Q goes to 0. At first glance, this looks like it would do what we expect, but unfortunately it does not. In fact, the assertion never even evaluates!! 8
  • 9. To understand why, we need to understand how the SystemVerilog simulation scheduler evaluates assertions, which we will look at in the next section. 9
  • 10. A Verilog or SystemVerilog simulator has different scheduling regions where events are scheduled and subsequently evaluated. All event evaluations occur in the scheduler’s Active region. Events are scheduled in the Inactive region by using a #0 delay, and the Non-Blocking Assignment (NBA) region by using a non-blocking assign. Once all the events in the Active region are exhausted, the Inactive region events are promoted to the Active region and evaluated. Likewise, once those events are evaluated, the non-blocking events are promoted to the Active region and evaluated. As simulation progresses, events are scheduled and evaluated until all events for a particular time step are evaluated and simulation can move forward. The traditional Verilog scheduling semantics have been extended from including an Active, Inactive, and NBA regions to also include some special regions just for assertions. The Preponed region has been added in SystemVerilog in order to sample all of a concurrent assertion’s inputs, and the Observed region is used for their evaluation. Events such as clock or asynchronous signals are generated using blocking or non-blocking assignments from initial or always blocks, which means that they occur in the Active or subsequent regions. Since concurrent assertion inputs are sampled in the Preponed region before any clock or reset events are generated, assertions ALWAYS sample their input values before the sampling event occurs. This is why when we write synchronous assertions we always need to go 1 clock cycle into future and then look into the past with $past() in order to see what happened on the last clock edge. In addition to the Preponed and Observed regions, SystemVerilog also includes a Reactive region where program blocks can schedule their events after the design has finished evaluating in the Active/Inactive/NBA regions. The idea for this is to avoid race conditions between the testbench and the design. 10
  • 11. Now that we understand the scheduling semantics, let’s take a look at why the asynchronous reset assertion failed. On the left-hand side, you can see what the values of Reset and Q are in their respective regions. In the top assertion, when the posedge of Reset occurs, the precondition evaluates whether Reset is true (non- zero). As you can see, in the Preponed region, Reset == 0 so this assertion’s precondition ALWAYS evaluates to false and the assertion never performs any checking (this is hard to detect in simulation because it looks like the assertion is always working and evaluating to true!) In the bottom assertion, we set the precondition to always evaluate true (i.e., non- zero) so that the assertion check occurs, but the value sampled for Q in the Preponed region is 3, not 0. So this assertion always fails except for the case when Q was already 0 before reset. Where we need to check the value of Q is sometime after the design has updated Q in the NBA region. To do so, we need to move the sampling of the assertion inputs to either the Observed, Reactive, or later regions. 11
  • 12. Let’s have a look at some simple methods we could use to delay the sampling of our assertion inputs. 12
  • 13. The most common way of handling asynchronous checking is to simply check the signal synchronously. Either the clock or a fast clock usually suffices to give the design enough time to update so when the assertion evaluates it samples the correct input values. For most people this is adequate and it handles any timing delays in the design, but it also leaves you wondering if the design really did immediately react to the asynchronous control signal since the actual checking is delayed. 13
  • 14. Alternatively, immediate assertions can be used to check the asynchronous behavior immediately at the appropriate time. Immediate (or procedural) assertions are placed inside of procedural blocks of code (initial, always) and sample their inputs at the time they are evaluated, which is based on their context. By placing the immediate assertions in the right context, the sampling of their inputs can be delayed to check the asynchronous behavior. There are several simple methods that can be used to delay the input sampling, which will be discuss in the following slides. 14
  • 15. The first method to delay input sampling is to use a program block. Program blocks sample their inputs in the Observed region and schedule their events in the Reactive region. By placing the assertion in a program block, the value of Q can be sampled AFTER the non-blocking assignment is made to it by the RTL when Reset occurs. Now, when Reset occurs, its results can be immediately observed and checked. One drawback to using a program block is that not all simulators support nested programs inside of modules, which means that hierarchical references would be needed to access the RTL signals. To work around this, a program could be bound (using bind) into the design unit. 15
  • 16. Sequence events are another way to delay assertion input sampling. The SystemVerilog standard states that sequence events set their end-point (i.e., when they are matched) in the Observed region, and that a process resumes it execution following the Observed region in which the end-point is detected (see IEEE 1800-2005, Section 10.10.1, p. 142). A sequence event is created by defining a named sequence and then waiting on it as shown above. The assertion is placed after the sequence event so that its inputs are sampled after the Observed region. The latest versions of most simulators have good support for sequence events. 16
  • 17. The expect statement is another useful SystemVerilog construct for delaying input sampling. The SystemVerilog standard states, “The statement following the expect is scheduled to execute after processing the Observe region in which the property completes its evaluation” (IEEE 1800-2005, Section 17.6, p. 299). The advantage of using expect over just assert is that expect can evaluate temporal expressions and properties; whereas, assert cannot. Unfortunately, not all simulators delay the evaluation of expect so a program block can be used as seen before. 17
  • 18. Since the RTL updates using non-blocking assignments, trying to delay sampling to the NBA region could pose a possible race condition. However, if done correctly, an immediate assertion can be also be delayed to right after the RTL has finished its updating. This can be accomplished by using a combination of a non-blocking event, such as the non-blocking trigger shown above, and the use of a #0 delay. The non-blocking trigger above will delay the assertion evaluation until at least the NBA region; however, System/Verilog does not guarantee the order that the always blocks will evaluate and schedule their events. In order to further delay the assertion evaluation until after the RTL schedules its update to Q, a #0 delay can be used to delay the assertion further to the Inactive region as illustrated in this slide. Using the #0 delay, the order that the non-blocking events no longer matters and the assertion can be guaranteed to always sample its inputs and evaluate at the correct moment in simulation time. For older simulators that do not implement the non-blocking trigger construct, the following could also be used: always @(posedge Reset)
 myReset <= Reset;" always @(posedge myReset)
 #0 assert( Q == 0 );" 18
  • 19. Clocking blocks can also be used for delaying immediate assertion input sampling. When an “input #0” is specified in a clocking block, the inputs are sampled in the Observed region. Using the clocking block then means that the inputs are always sampled after the design has finished updating. Unfortunately, clocking blocks do not give the same results in all simulators the first time Reset occurs. Since System/Verilog indeterminately executes processes, a race condition may exist between when the assertion reads the clocking block variable and when it gets updated, resulting in an X for Q the first time Reset occurs. To solve this, it is usually adequate to wait on the clocking block. 19
  • 20. Immediate assertions generally do not allow us to use the SVA temporal syntax that we get with concurrent assertions. Concurrent assertions are limited by the standard on when they can sample their inputs---inputs must be sampled in the Preponed region. However, there are 2 workarounds that we can consider. 20
  • 21. The first way to make a concurrent assertion work is to delay the sampling event. A simple concurrent assignment with a #1 delay is adequate enough to delay the input sampling long enough for the asynchronous assertion to evaluate correctly. Of course, some might object that this is not much different than sampling with a clock because there is a possibility of glitches between the asynchronous event and the actual check. However, a #1 delay should be small enough to not worry too much about this. While not exactly standard, some simulators support using #1step in an assignment, which essentially delays the assertion evaluation to the Postponed region and removes the possibility of missing any glitches. One major simulator (Modelsim/Questasim) supports #step instead. 21
  • 22. Another way to delay input sampling is by calling a task or function in a concurrent assertion. The SystemVerilog standard states that subroutines called in a sequence are to be evaluated in the Reactive region. By using a ref on a task argument, the current value is sampled in the Reactive region. Unfortunately, not all simulators treat functions the same as tasks so a workaround is to not pass the thing to be sampled as a function argument but to simply sample it within its declarative scope inside the function. Since the signal is not an argument, it is not an assertion input and not sampled in the Preponed region but in the Reactive region---the region of its evaluating context. 22
  • 23. Delaying the input sampling for assertions works great for RTL simulation, but what happens when timing delays are inserted in a gate-level simulation? Now of these assertions would work because the RTL does not change on the same time step as the asynchronous event. Instead, our assertions need to wait for the asynchronous event and then watch for the design to change before checking. We could use a multi-clocked sequence as shown above to wait for the design to update. However, what if Q was already 0 so @Q never evaluates because there was no value change? It could be qualified using a conditional statement, but there still exists 2 problems: (1) there is the same sampling issue of Q when @Q occurs since the input is sampled in the Preponed region, and (2) how can it guaranteed that Q changed because of Reset event that triggered it? What if Q did not change from Reset but when the counter started counting again? Even if it is qualified with Reset being high, Q might not change until a future Reset event and not the current one. 23
  • 24. The best solution to this problem is probably a compromise using a multi-clocked sequence with Reset and the Clock. The assertion will trigger asynchronously when the Reset event occurs, but then Q is sampled using the Clock to ensure that it eventually updates while under Reset given a window of time specified by some timeout constant. This makes it easy to change the assertion to compensate for gate- delays with the gate-level netlist, to ensure that Q changes within an acceptable window of time, and that Q actually responses to the corresponding Reset event. 24
  • 25. So in summary…. 25
  • 26. Here are some guidelines to follow when handing asynchronous behaviors with SVA … 26
  • 27. For more information on writing asynchronous assertions, please see the following paper: Doug Smith. “Asynchronous Behaviors Meet Their Match with SVA,” DVCon Proceedings, February 2010. This paper describes in detailed what is presented here, plus discusses how to handle asynchronous communication using multi-clocked sequences. The full paper can be downloaded from the Doulos website (www.doulos.com). 27