Blinded by a Tree

By Eddie Glenn

Glenn_lg Developing large systems is a lot like trying to get an appreciation of the Amazon when you’re standing beneath a single tree in the middle of it.  Sure, there’s a lot that you can find out about that single tree. You can look at its trunk, its leaves, and its branches.  You could take soil measurements around the tree to determine if it is getting the proper nutrients.  

But, the health of that single tree is often determined by what’s going on around it.  If your perspective is limited to just that tree, then you’re going to miss the jungle.  You won’t see how the various streams feed into the rivers, how one part of the ecosystem feeds another part which feeds another part.  Simply put, if that single tree is in distress, how can you fix it without looking at what’s going on around it?

When we develop large electronic systems, we too often focus on just one part of the system without regard to the system as a whole.  Why is that?  The main reason most would cite is that very few people have access to the entire system.  While this is usually the case, another reason is that the system as a whole is often too complex to set up, control, and debug because there are few development/test tools that work at the system level.  This is especially the case, when the system is comprised of multiple target architectures and multiple target RTOSes.

Full system simulation (aka virtual platforms) changes all of this.  For example, Wind River Simics allows one to build a virtual platform of a large system containing tens to hundreds of boards, each containing perhaps different target hardware architectures and RTOSes.  So, while one can still use their favorite tools to examine each tree, er, board, Simics provides visibility of the entire jungle, er, system.

By seeing and controlling the system as a whole, one can use Simics to easily see how behavior in one part of the system impacts other parts.  With the recent introduction of Simics Analyzer, one now has the ability to analyze & collect metrics on the system as a whole instead of being limited to just a single part.

As electronics become more integrated with other electronics, system complexity will continue to rapidly grow. Developers will need to see the forest, beyond a single tree.

Eddie Glenn is Senior Marketing Manager for Wind River Simics. He has over 23 years of experience in the embedded software industry including many years writing embedded software for safety-critical flight applications.  He spent nearly 14 years at Rational Software in a variety of roles including safety-critical RTOS engineer, marketing engineer, product manager, and product marketing manager.  Eddie has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and electrical engineering from the University of Virginia, and an MBA from the University of Oregon. Eddie can be reached at