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IBM R&D Labs in Israel News

Testing the Limits of Verification

The fourth Haifa Verification Conference brings together verification and testing specialists from industry and academia

Haifa, Israel, November 11, 2008 - The problem itself is straightforward: How can we make hardware and software work better? For four days last week, experts in hardware and software verification converged on the IBM Haifa Research Lab (HRL) in Israel to discuss the various aspects of this basic challenge.

Jointly sponsored by IBM, Cadence, Mentor Graphics, and Synopsys, the fourth annual Haifa Verification Conference (HVC 08) attracted nearly 180 verification professionals, including thirty from outside Israel. The general chair Hana Chockler explained that the verification world essentially works in four distinct yet interconnected domains: hardware verification, software testing, formal verification, and simulation-based testing.

"HVC brings together IT professionals from all these different domains so we can learn from one another," explained Chockler, a researcher in HRL's Formal Verification group. Certain verification methodologies, she noted, used to be exclusively identified with certain types of verification. In recent years, multi-domain deployment of testing techniques has gained in popularity, and the cross-fertilization cultivated at HVC and events like it serve to further expand that trend.

Cutting-edge Sessions

HVC 08 featured a full day of tutorials prior to the conference. The tutorials addressed a number of issues that are at the center of current verification challenges globally, including low-power design and verification, multicore verification, soft errors, and growing verification complexity.

The three days of the conference focused on the various meeting points of verification methods and domains. Program Chair Alan Hu of the University of British Columbia oversaw the HVC 08 technical program with the help of the 40-person strong program committee.

"Less than a third of the regular papers submitted were accepted for the conference. That gives you an idea of the high level of the talks presented at this year's HVC," Chockler noted.

Some high points of HVC 08 included the two keynote addresses, given by Prof. Daniel Jackson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Prof. Moshe Vardi of Rice University; three invited talks, given by Yoav Hollander from Cadence, verification consultant Brian Bailey, and Carl Pixley from Synopsys; a panel on verification coverage in which experts from various domains explained how they approach this major challenge of the industry; a session on post-silicon verification in which speakers addressed the increasingly difficult task of verifying chips after they've left the fab; and the various papers describing new and innovative work being done in verification.

Professor Jackson's talk addressed the hazards of verification. He explained how to avoid those hazards and confront them if they arise. Professor Vardi's keynote revisited automata-theoretic model checking. According to Vardi, it is still not clear which technique is most effective for verifying systems. Different settings seem to require different tools and techniques, and there is still much room for further research and improvement.

Not Just Lectures

HVC 08 also featured a number of social programs for participants. The first day of the conference culminated in a cocktail party held in the HRL atrium. Following the second day of sessions, conference-goers participated in a night-time visit to Caesarea, the ancient Roman seaside ruins south of Haifa, and then had dinner on site. Additional optional tours included a tour of the world-famous Baha'i Gardens in Haifa and a guided tour of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Plans for HVC 09 are already underway. HRL researcher Avi Ziv has already been appointed general chair, and the HVC team are currently searching for an external industry expert to serve as program chair, similar to the role played by Alan Hu this year.

As processor and application development become increasingly complex, Chockler summed up, the role of verification becomes more and more important.

"Verification has become a very central issue across the IT industry," she explained. "HVC is answering this call by providing a forum for discussing the application of established methods as well as examining cutting-edge theories. By doing so, we hope to advance the field even more."