As integrated circuits have become progressively more complex, constrained random stimulus has become ubiquitous as a means of stimulating a designs functionality and ensuring it fully meets expectations. In theory, random stimulus allows all possible combinations to be exercised given enough time, but in practice with highly complex designs a purely random approach will have difficulty in exercising all possible combinations in a timely fashion. As a result it is often necessary to steer the Design Verification (DV) environment to generate hard to hit combinations. The resulting constrained-random approach is powerful but often relies on extensive human expertise to guide the DV environment in order to fully exercise the design. As designs become more complex, the guidance aspect becomes progressively more challenging and time consuming often resulting in design schedules in which the verification time to hit all possible design coverage points is the dominant schedule limitation. This paper describes an approach which leverages existing constrained-random DV environment tools but which further enhances them using supervised learning and reinforcement learning techniques. This approach provides better than random results in a highly automated fashion thereby ensuring DV objectives of full design coverage can be achieved on an accelerated timescale and with fewer resources.
Two hardware verification examples are presented, one of a Cache Controller design and one using the open-source RISCV-Ariane design and Google’s RISCV Random Instruction Generator. We demonstrate that a machine-learning based approach can perform significantly better on functional coverage and reaching complex hard-to-hit states than a random or constrained-random approach.