Saturday, March 3, 2012

Design Engineer, Verification Engineer and the Gap

Its often said that there is generally a 'gap' between Design Engineer(DE) and Verification Engineer(VE). Initially I always thought that Verification Engineer's knowledge about the design is limited and that's what is called as 'gap'. However, later I came to know that this gap is not all that bad and could have be both positive as well as negative shades.

By positive, I mean that VE can have his doubts about the design implementation or in some cases design(w.r.t Specification) itself and hence he won't be under the influence of the DE. This could really work out in favour of VE in most cases. Just to support my viewpoint, other day when I was talking to a DE, he told me that there is a *new* VE in his team who is able to find good number of bugs to his surprise and he also said this was possible because that VE doesnt know much about the protocol or design and he is able to hit the cases which were thought as invalid or illegal(though they are not). This new VE unknowingly brought the paradigm shift in the way verification was done.
The ability to question the 'status-quo' in this case is quite predominant because the new VE is not biased by the Designer's viewpoint or perspective.

This 'gap' also has negative shades since this curtails the VE's decision making progress in the course of verificaiton especially during debug. Generally VE starts on a 'debug journey' whenever a Testbench reports error; once its confirmed that its not a TB issue, then VE's thought/debug processes branches out in multiple directions and in the process he ends up making a decisions based on his previous experience or knowledge about the design. The path he takes could lead him to a bug or nowhere depending on how good the decission is. In order to make a good decision, depth of understanding of RTL/design will help in a big way. However, the real quality/ingenuity of the VE will be tested and how much unbiased/independentness he shows in making that decision will decide the fate of debug.
Generally in these cases, I have observed that VE being 'tenacious' can make a huge difference at the end. VE can be easily overriden by hugely experienced DEs( not necessarily good DEs) and this is where Management's role come into picture. If the issues is such that its neither concluded a design bug nor an issue which can be ignored, then management should always back the VE and ask DE to help out in debug till its root-caused.

Asking right questions to DE could be one of the ways through which VE can gain confidence. Some of the questions could be like these:-

1. I found this in specifications/standard and I see that this is not taken care ..what's your take on this?
2. I found that one block(A) in the design supports this functionality whereas same functionality is broken in other block(B). How can this be?
3. I happen to hit upon a illegal case but I didn't find in the documentation that after this illegal condition what is the intended behaviour by design ?
4. This implementaiton is well within what is specified by standards, However, I see that its not inline with the design intent based on design documentation. Is this correct?

This list can be really long and I am deciding to stop here. In my next blog, I would like to share what kind of questions a VE can ask himself ( about the Verificaiton Infrastructure).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very valid point. This happens in our teams as well. If people with different perceptions about the same concept are teamed up, they produce interesting end product.