SAN FRANCISCO When Virtutech Inc. introduced Hindsight, a debugger that can run programs backward in time, at the Embedded Systems Conference in March, the technology captured a lot of interest. Hindsight demos at the show were standing-room-only, and a white paper about the technology on Virtutech's Web site drew 20,000 downloads, causing the company to experience server problems.
"It was a little depressing to see these standing-room-only demos and realize that I am never going to top this," said Peter Magnuson, Virtutech's chief technology officer, who noted that even major companies seldom see such interest level in conference/tradeshow technology demonstrations.
On Monday (Oct. 3), Virtutech (San Jose, Calif.) released version 3.0 of its Simics system-level simulator, including, among other things, Hindsight. After months of developing and beta testing, it marks the first inclusion of the Hindsight technology in a production release.
"When we were a younger company, we'd go from alpha to beta to shipping products in two weeks," Magnusson said. "Now we need to be a little more careful that it's perfected before we put a stamp of gold on it and ship it out."
Debugging on real hardware is time consuming and costly, typically taking up more than half of a programmer's time during the development process. When an error occurs, hardware-based solutions require re-booting and re-running the code in an attempt to halt execution just before the problem.
Hindsight introduces the ability for software developers to run code backwards once an error is detected. And though Virtutech has acknowledged that running backward is slightly slower than running forward, the company believes that improving debugging productivity with reverse code execution significantly shortens the software development and testing phase of the product life-cycle.
Version 3.0 of Simics also adds Virtutech's proprietary Device Modeling Language (DML), which the company touts as the most productive developing environment for creating and configuring non-standard devices such as ASICs and FPGAs. DML is said to automate the routine task of creating code to manage the hundreds and often thousands of registers in a modern system.
Simics 3.0 features a DML compiler, which translates DML into high-performance device models that Virtutech says enable Simics to simulate complete electronic systems at a performance measured in speeds of up to billions of simulated instructions per second.
Virtutech has also integrated Simics 3.0 into the framework of the open-source Eclipse integrated development environment.
Magnusson said Simics 3.0 is the culmination of more than 10 years of R&D and has proven itself to be the only cost-effective and productive software development platform that can accommodate the rapidly increasing software content in today's electronic devices.
Virtutech Simics 3.0 is available now, with pricing dependent upon use and model requirements. DML is included in Simics Model Builder which is priced at $50,000. Simics Hindsight is a $5,000 add-on to Simics Builder.