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Stimulus Optimization in Hardware Verification Using Machine-Learning
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Simulation-based functional verification is a commonly used technique for hardware verification, with the goal of exercising critical scenarios in the design, detecting and fixing bugs, and achieving close to 100% of the coverage targets required for tape-out. As chip complexity continues to grow, functional verification is also becoming a bottleneck for the overall chip design cycle. The primary goal is to shorten the time taken for functional coverage convergence in the volume verification phase, which in return, accelerates the bug detection in the design. In this thesis, I have investigated the application of machine learning towards this objective. I accessed the machine learning-guided stimulus generation with two approaches: coarse-grained test-level optimization and fine-grained transaction-level optimization. The effectiveness of machine learning was first confirmed on test-level optimization, which rests on achieving full coverage for a certain group of functional coverage metrics in reduced time with a minimal number of simulated tests. It was observed that test-level optimization was limited to some common functional coverage metrics. This was the motivation to explore and implement transaction-level optimization in two novel ways: transaction pruning and directed sequence generation for accelerated functional coverage closure. These techniques were applied on FSM (Finite State Machine) and Non-FSM based coverage metrics and compared the gains using different ML classifiers. Experimental results showed that the fine-grained implementation can potentially reduce the overall CPU time for the verification coverage closure; thus, I propose that complementary application of both the levels of stimulus optimization is the recommended path for efficiency improvements in functional verification coverage convergence.
Gogri, Saumil Pankajbhai (2019). Stimulus Optimization in Hardware Verification Using Machine-Learning. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from