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<h1>Virtual Prototyping Platform (VPP)</h1>
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<h2>Please note that the VPP project will become part of a DSDP Incubator project in the near future.</h2>
The <i>Virtual Prototyping Platform (VPP)</i> project is a proposed open
source project under the Device Software Development Platform
Project. VPP is intended to collect a number of smaller technologies
together that, when combined, will enable Eclipse to be used for the tasks
associated with constructing, debugging, visualizing, analyzing, and
using (models of) systems constructed from components that may be
based on hardware or software, or a combination of both.
<p>This proposal is in the Project Proposal Phase (as defined in the <a
href="{field{*fldinst{HYPERLINK ""}}{fldrslt}}">Eclipse
Development Process document</a>) and is written to declare its
intent and scope. This proposal is written to solicit additional
participation and input from the Eclipse community. You are invited
to comment on and/or join the project. Please send all feedback to
the <a
href=""></a> newsgroup.</p>
Today, complex systems are no longer designed monolithically, but
rather as amalgamations (at the system level) of complex
interconnected components, each of which may consist of both
hardware and hardware dependent software components.
In order to design such systems, often models are used. They can be
used to explore potential implementations (in terms of hardware,
software, or the division between hardware and software), enable
early software development on top of the system "platform," or
indeed as a reference model that can be used for verification. The
models can encompass both hardware and software components.
Models can be written to be more or less faithful to the final
implementation, both in terms of their functionality, and in terms
of the "meta" information that they model (for instance execution
time or power consumption).
<p>Functional accuracy can range markedly, from very little (pure
traffic generators), through partially accurate models (which may
not model some specific features of a hardware implementation, which
may or may not be visible to a programmer), to models that are
totally functionally accurate. Further more, models may be
specifically designed to "stress" software components, often for the
purpose of assisting in debug, and ensuring software correctness.
This level of activity is often referred to as the "Electronic
System Level" or ESL.
ESL Design activity often occurs prior to or at the point of making
a split between hardware and software, which is often recognized as
a highly influential point in the design process. The wide range of
uses that ESL models are put to means that there are many "views" of
them that are appropriate.</p>
These models may be of components destined to for implementation in
hardware or in software. The models constructed (and debugged) in
this way then provide a starting point for the development of
hardware dependent software and the hardware itself. While the
processor-centric view of a system is addressed by other projects
within Eclipse, and other projects focus on connections with
hardware, this project focuses on how to construct, connect, debug,
analyze, visualize and use models (of virtual prototype components destined for
implementation in hardware, or software) to Eclipse.
The language used for the ESL Design activity is predominantly
(though not exclusively) <a href="">SystemC.</a>
SystemC is a language implemented
as a C++ library, so it shares many of the debug requirements of C++
itself. However, there are additional views of a SystemC model that
are useful to the designer (for instance, SystemC keyword
highlighting, model connectivity diagrams etc). It is expected that
the VPP will cover other languages over time that are relevant to
ESL (e.g. System Verilog).
Once SystemC models are debugged, and executable, they can be run
either using a freely available SystemC library implementation
(provided by the Open SystemC Initiative), or one of the many
proprietary simulators. In either case, a model may wish to interact
with the user, for a number of reasons:</p>
<li> Configuration</li>
<li> Run time Control</li>
<li> User input</li>
<li> Visualization (output)</li>
<li> Analysis and Profiling</li>
In each case, mechanisms will be required in Eclipse to support this
user interaction.
<h1>Use Case Scenarios</h1>
The use cases for VPP can be divided into two main categories, those
associated with initial model creation, and those associated with
model execution and analysis.
In the first category, model creation shares many of the same use
cases as other relatively complex software designs. As the languages
(such as SystemC) are increasingly based on C++, many of the
standard Eclipse plugins can be used. However additional plugins are
of some use, for instance specific SystemC syntax highlighting, or
model topology visulisation. In the second category, the scope of
useful plugins is much wider. In general, these will all be
concerned with user interaction with a running (or completed)
model. They will encompass plugins to display statistics about the
execution of the model (analysis data), and others to elicit input
from the user to control a model's execution.
Overall, a typical use case would be for an Electronic System
Engineer to initially import a number of pre-existing models into
their environment. They may use some VPP topology visualization
plugins to help understand the connectivity of the model they are
trying to build. They may then go on to build a few "component
models" themselves, using many already existing Eclipse plugins, and
some VPP additions. Having debugged the model, again with a
combination of plugins, they would then go on to execute the model,
controlling its execution through other VPP plugins. Finally, they
will need to extract data from the model (the reason for
constructing the model in the first place!). This data will be
provided to the user through VPP plugins.</p>
<h1>Project Principles</h1>
Among the key principles on which this project has been initiated,
and will be run, are the following:
<b>Leverage Eclipse Ecosystem </b>- A major goal of this project
is to apply the application development strengths of Eclipse to
the System Level Design Domain (especially as, in the end, a
System Level model is nothing more than a relatively constrained,
but none the less complex, application). The project will work
closely with other Eclipse project areas whenever possible to
leverage the capabilities being developed in those areas.
<b>Vendor Neutral </b>- We aim to encourage Eclipse participation
and drive Eclipse market acceptance by providing vendor-neutral
capabilities and to encourage participation for complementary
capabilities through additional projects.
<b>Open, Standards-based Development </b>- Where market adopted
standards exist that meet the design goals, our aim is to
leverage and adhere to them. Where market adopted standards do
not exist, we will develop and publish any new capabilities in
the Eclipse open forum.
<b>Incremental Delivery </b>- In order to meet the pent-up demand
for a standardized framework for device software development
tools, we aim to deliver functionality to the market as rapidly as
possible via an incremental delivery model.
<h1>Project Scope </h1>
Within the development of Device Software, three phases are identified:<p>
<b>Hardware Bring-up </b></li>
<b>Platform Software Development </b></li>
<b>Application Software Development </b></li>
System Level Design includes all of these, but with respect to
models. In addition, the Bring-up phase will apply to models of
functional components that may be destined for implementation in a
combination of hardware and software and there is one more phase:
Hardware/Software partitioning, or model abstraction level decisions
In this phase, designers decide at what level they need to (or can)
model items in their system. At high levels of abstraction it may
not be clear if this item will be implemented in hardware or in
software. At lower levels details about the implementation become
important. The VPP will use or adapt other projects within DSDP to
address the other three design phases as they relate to system level
design and will add specific exemplary tools aimed at assisting in
the hardware/software partitioning task.</p>
<p>Having designed a model, and chosen a level of abstraction suitable
for the use cases to which the model is to be applied, the wider
range of Eclipse tools and plug-ins will be required including:</p>
<li> Model Debug</li>
<li> System Visualization</li>
<li> Model specific Analysis</li>
<li> Transaction level analysis (communication between Virtual
<li> Model execution profiling</li>
<li> User interactions</li>
<li> Configuration</li>
<li> Control (User based control, and script based control)</li>
<h3>SystemC (and related languages)</h3>
Specifically within the domain of System Level Design, SystemC is
used as the modeling language of choice. It is based on C++ and can
therefore be used to build software and hardware components. As it
is a language in its own right, there are language related
extensions to Eclipse that fall within this project.
<h3>Initial technologies</h3>
<li> SystemC Syntax highlighting </li>
<li> SystemC topology viewer (to view the hardware components of a
system, typically fed by a SystemC parser) </li>
<li> Display of analysis information published by SystemC models </li>
<li> Profiling of SystemC simulations (this requires hooks into
the SystemC kernel to provide simulation activity in order to
improve simulation performance) </li>
<p>For each of these, work in disparate organizations is already taking
place, GreenSocs (see below) aims to pull this work together in one central
place and to feed that into VPP.</p>
There is already a project similar in conception to
Eclipse called the <a href="">GreenSocs Eclipse Project</a>,
which is focused solely on System Level Design
infrastructure and built for the most part around SystemC, within which
Eclipse should form a part. Hence the logical point of interaction
between Eclipse and GreenSocs is the VPPy project, which
GreenSocs will run within Eclipse. GreenSocs will aim to collect
funding and supply engineering to continue the development effort,
but also to coordinate activities such as those within universities
worldwide that are engaged in developing Eclipse extensions for ESL.
Greensocs is already committed to offer initial contributions.
This will occur soon after the project is
created. GreenSocs will encourage and coordinate contributions for
other organizations, expected from a number of industrial and
academic institutions.
<h2>Interested Parties</h2>
<h3>Industrial Organizations</h3>
<a href="">Xilinx Research</a> investigates ESL technologies for FPGA designers and strongly
believes that a robust open-source solution for model development, debug and analysis is needed.
This project's goal (to build open-source modeling extensions to Eclipse) is both timely and
well focused on the set of core problems that an Eclipse open source solution could address.
In terms of direct support, Xilinx Research will continue to offer technical guidance to the
project and may donate code to accelerate the development of Eclipse plug-in modules.
<h3>University Organizations</h3>
<a href="">FZI</a> (a research organization of German Universities), <a href="">Unicamp</a> (a similar organization
based in Brazil), and <a href="">EIS</a> (a research lab at TU Braunschweig, Germany) have contributed to the current efforts GreenSocs has made in building
some of the components required by VPP.
<h2>Contact Person</h2>
Mark Burton (
The intention is to provide basic plugins to support SystemC
modeling and debug straight away. These will not be of sufficient
quality to warrant a 1.0 release, but will be worked on to achieve
that goal. Other parallel activities will focus on model to user
interactions. This work is expected to be industrially funded, with
GreenSocs providing the resource.
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