‘Silicon autopsy’ tools for ARM

Earlier this week Eoin McCann posted a new article in the ARM Processors blog about ‘silicon autopsy’: dealing with silicon errors on ARM systems. Of course it’s a bit of a product pitch for ARM’s CoreSight and related products, but product pitch aside the blog give a good description of the various problems and tools available for those performing ARM-based silicon autopsies. ARM has a free Community Edition as well as an expensive Ultimate Edition of DS-5, ARM’s Eclipse-based Developer Studio IDE for firmware.

Silicon autopsy: Understanding when chips fail: In a lot of ways debug is similar to being a medical doctor. A patient comes in with some complaints and lists their symptoms, but you need to run tests in order to properly diagnose the issue before focusing the mind on how to fix it. A lot has been written and discussed in the past about debugging hardware, but most of the attention is dedicated to the pre-silicon stage when issues can be identified close to the source and rectified before it is too late. These bugs are similar to performing an autopsy on a body, sifting through all of the potential clues to narrow down what has gone wrong, and how it can be rectified. Bugs that are found in the silicon itself are typically much more difficult to identify, and can drain an enormous amount of time and resources to fix properly. Today I will speak about silicon debug, the challenges associated with it and what can be done to improve it.

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