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SystemC Community Newsletter: September 2008


Working Group Update: Analog/Mixed-Signal

Heading Towards the AMS Draft 1 Standard
Martin Barnasconi, AMS Working Group Chair

After the initiation of the OSCI AMS working group (AMSWG) two years ago, a lot has happened to standardize a modeling language for analog/mixed-signal systems. This update provides an overview on what has been done so far in the AMSWG and gives an outlook on the steps ahead.

The AMSWG was created with the primary goal of defining a standardized system-level modeling language based on SystemC in order to describe analog and mixed-signal behavior at higher levels of abstraction. In fact, the reasoning behind defining the SystemC AMS extensions does not differ from the main purpose of having SystemC: having an open industry standard for system-level modeling, design and verification. The formation of the AMSWG was heavily pushed by the big players in the European Semiconductor industry: NXP Semiconductors, ST Microelectronics and Infineon. They all have similar experiences when dealing with today's design complexity of embedded analog/mixed-signal systems, and they are all facing the limitations of existing hardware description languages (HDLs) and simulation tools in the AMS application domain.

The objective of the working group is to standardize extensions for SystemC by introducing a semantic for describing non-conservative and conservative systems with continuous-time descriptions. To make the next step in abstracting analog continuous-time behavior, not only the design abstraction of an intrinsic analog model should be considered, but the communication between the models also counts. For this reason, additional models of computation are necessary to abstract the continuous-time behavior into efficient discrete-time processing where applicable. The AMS extensions that are being standardized in the AMSWG address these topics and introduce a new modeling paradigm for SystemC, enabling efficient simulation for analog/mixed-signal systems.

The first achievement of the AMSWG was the endorsement of the requirements specification for the SystemC AMS extensions. Serious effort was invested by the team to define a consolidated view on the motivation, application domain, use cases and requirements for this new language standard. The requirements specification has become a comprehensive reference document that will be used to monitor the progress of the language definitions in the Language Reference Manual (LRM) and will serve as a guideline for future developments to further enhance the capabilities of the SystemC AMS extensions. As part of the planned release of the AMS draft 1 standard, the requirements documentation is considered to become part of the release package, so the SystemC community is able to review and monitor which requirements have been covered in the draft standard and what is yet to be addressed.

Several very successful public events have been organized by AMSWG members. The first event, organized by Fraunhofer IIS/EAS in June 2007, consisted of a workshop on C-based modeling of embedded mixed-signal systems. With representatives from the semiconductor industry, universities, research institutes and EDA tool vendors, this workshop brought together the various existing solutions and innovative and differentiating design methodologies for AMS system-level design. This workshop made a significant contribution towards defining and prioritizing the requirements for a standardized and accepted modeling language at the specification and architecture level for the AMS domain, and resulted in valuable input for the working group's requirements gathering process.

The interaction between analog/mixed-signal system descriptions and transaction-level modeling (TLM) was addressed in a workshop organized by the Vienna University of Technology in January 2008 and was also a topic of discussion in an interactive session at the Design, Automation and Test in Europe (DATE) Conference in March 2008. During these events, the first studies and concepts behind how to establish communication between the AMS and TLM world were presented. Although this work is still in the research phase, the AMSWG highly appreciates these contributions and looks forward to incorporating these future requirements and capabilities in an upcoming release of the AMS standard.

At this year's Design Automation Conference (DAC), the AMSWG released their first whitepaper introducing the SystemC AMS extensions. The whitepaper presented the AMS extensions and explained the capabilities for the design and modeling of embedded analog/mixed-signal systems at various levels of design abstraction. The working group put substantial work into creating a real-life example to illustrate how to use these AMS extensions for different use cases. Although a fully compliant proof-of-concept implementation of the SystemC AMS extensions does not exist yet, the AMSWG was able to simulate and validate this example to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept. The approach for setting up this demo simulation platform is currently being developed in the working group. The AMS community will be informed via the AMS discussion forum as soon as more information becomes available.

The AMSWG plans to release the AMS Language Reference Manual as part of the first SystemC AMS extensions kit later this year. This milestone will be the kick-off of a public review period, where the SystemC AMS community is encouraged to review the AMS draft 1 standard and provide feedback. The AMS discussion forum,, allows for interaction among the community. Details on the public release and additional information of the AMS draft 1 standard will also be communicated via the AMS forum.

OSCI and the AMS working group are committed to defining and advancing SystemC standards by working towards a unified and standardized system-level language including the AMS domain. You can be part of this!

Keep up-to-date with the AMS Working Group activities:

Download the whitepaper introducing the SystemC AMS extensions (login required):

Join the AMS discussion forum:

DAC Wrap-up

We had excellent response to the 7th Symposium on Electronic System-Level Design with SystemC and other related activities at DAC 2008.

The symposium began on Sunday with an Opening Session and Reception and a North American SystemC Users Group (NASCUG) Meeting. The NASCUG meeting included an OSCI update by Mike Meredith, president of OSCI, and a review of the new SystemC Analog & Mixed-Signal Extensions by Martin Barnasconi, chairman of the AMS Working Group. OSCI members from JEDA, ESLX, CoFluent, GreenSocs, and others delivered presentations on a wide variety of topics.

Monday's all-day event began with a panel discussion titled "Real World Advantages of the OSCI TLM-2.0 Standard for Model Interoperability and IP Reuse." This informative lunch panel brought together a unique combination of thought leaders in electronic systems, software, and semiconductors. Panelists included Ken Tallo, Director of Virtual Platforms, SoC Enabling Group, Intel; Tauseef Kazi, Principal Engineer, Qualcomm; and Prakash Rashinkar, Director of Engineering, Rambus. Discussion included the economic impact of ESL, SystemC and transaction-level modeling (TLM); how their respective organizations are using TLM-2.0 to increase design success and improve productivity; and predictions on the future of TLM-2.0.

Monday afternoon focused on a special workshop titled "OSCI TLM-2.0 in 2008 - A Leap Forward for Transaction-Level Modeling Standards." This workshop presented details of the finalized OSCI TLM-2.0 standard, which marked the culmination of several years of intensive work by the OSCI TLM Working Group. Participants learned how TLM-2.0 explicitly addresses the interoperability of memory-mapped bus models at the transaction level and provides a foundation and framework for the transaction-level modeling of other protocols.

We would like to thank all of the attendees for making these events such a success.

Survey Results

Participants at the OSCI Workshop and NASCUG meeting filled out a short survey. Below are a few of the average responses between the groups.

We currently plan to apply SystemC for...
Algorithm design 58%
System modeling (HW/SW partitioning, memory/bus architectures) 46%
Heterogeneous system modeling (analog/MS/RF/digital systems) 36%
Virtual platforms for early SW development for internal users 44%
Virtual platforms for early SW development for customers 30%
Reference model for functional verification of ICs 30%
Behavioral/algorithmic synthesis 21%
Testbench development 20%
Other 2%
What is the primary level of abstraction you use to develop your SystemC models?
Functional level 39%
Transactional level 85%
Untimed (UT) 60%
Loosely-timed (LT) 40%
Approximately-timed (AT) 47%
Cycle-accurate (CA) 32%
Is your company using TLM?
Current user 60%
Have plans to use 33%
No plans to use at this time 8%

Upcoming Events

OSCI will be hosting user group meetings and other activities at these upcoming industry events.

Forum on specification & Design Languages (FDL '08)
September 23-25, 2008
Stuttgart, Germany
FDL '08 will have many SystemC activities including a 2-day track on C/C++/SystemC system design, TLM-2.0 workshop and tutorial, and a SPRINT project workshop on SystemC modeling.

European SystemC User's Group (ESCUG) Meeting
September 23, 2008, 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Stuttgart, Germany
Co-Located with the Forum on specification & Design Languages (FDL '08) (see Fringe Events)


If you have questions or need assistance, please contact:

Jill Jacobs

Copyright 2008 Open SystemC Initiative