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Architectural simulator platforms are particularly complex and error-prone programs that aim to simulate all hardware details of a given target architecture. The development of a stable cycle-accurate architectural simulator can easily take several man-years. Discovering and fixing all visible errors in the simulator often requires significant effort, much higher than for writing the simulator in the first place. In addition, there are no guarantees that all programming errors will be eliminated, no matter how much effort is put into it. This paper presents dynamic runtime testing, a methodology for rapid development and accurate error detection in architectural cycle-accurate simulators. In dynamic runtime testing, the simulator execution is dynamically compared with a simple and functionally equivalent emulator. A possible error is detected if any instruction produces different results in the simulator and the emulator. Dynamic testing can help the developers of architectural simulators to get a reliable and accurate verification of functional correctness. Based on our experience, dynamic testing reduced the simulator modification time from 12-18 person-months to 3-4 person-months, and it only modestly reduced the simulator performance (in our case under 20%).
Date of Conference: 26-29 Oct. 2011