Virtual Hardware  Version 1.2.3 - beta
Product Overview

Arm Virtual Hardware (AVH) provides simulation models, software tooling, and infrastructure that can be integrated into CI/CD and MLOps development flows.

AVH supports the software development cycle of embedded, IoT, and ML applications and provides essential components for effective test and validation environments. Arm Virtual Hardware is flexible and can run any RTOS that is designed for Cortex-M or bare metal code that interacts with the processor.

Arm Virtual Hardware offers a comprehensive tool integration along with resources for software developers and can therefore run complex applications and software integration tests. A potential workload could be a sensor-fusion Machine Learning (ML) application that connects to the Internet via an IoT operating system.

Arm Virtual Hardware consists of the following components:

  • Arm Virutal Hardware Targets are precise simulation models of Cortex-M device sub-systems and are designed for complex software verification and testing. It allows simulation-based test automation of various software workloads, including unit tests, integration tests, and fault injection.
  • Arm Virtual Hardware Services provide a cloud-native infrastructure for software test and validation. These services can be integrated into various CI/CD and MLOps environments that range from GitHub to on-premise IT infrastructure. The Arm Virtual Hardware services are available via the AWS Marketplace (and later also via other Cloud Service providers).
  • Arm Virtual Hardware Developer Resources gives you access to interface drivers that map to virtual targets and physical hardware along with Python scripts for I/O simulation. The documentation explains how to integrate Arm Virtual Hardware Targets into typical CI/CD environments. Usage examples show typical usage cases and range from audio processing, ML algorithm testing, up to IoT applications that interface to Cloud Service providers.
  • Software Development Environments with Arm Virtual Hardware Targets integration are also available. Arm Virtual Hardware is an integral part of the Keil MDK Professional Edition that is a comprehensive software tool suite for creating Cortex-M-based applications and related validation and test processes. In future, the next-generation Keil Studio will also integrate Arm Virtual Hardware.
Arm Virtual Hardware - Components

Documentation Structure

Section Description
Overview Introduces Arm Virtual Hardware along with the top-level structure.
Simulation Explains the Arm Virtual Hardware Targets along with the simulation technology and the virtual interfaces.
Infrastructure Describes how to setup development work flows with Arm Virtual Hardware.
Examples Guides you through the examples demonstrating how to use Arm Virtual Hardware.

User Benefits

Test without Hardware

AVH allows to verify your code without the need for physical hardware which provides a robust test environment that enables:

  • Early software development for faster time-to-market
  • Select optimal target device once the software workload is analysed
  • Re-target applications to production hardware with driver abstractions

Verify Correctness

Arm Virtual Hardware Targets are based on Arm simulation models that are validated with the same process as the IP. Specially it allows you to:

  • Perform algorithm testing with identical logical behaviour of the target device
  • Precisely repeat complex input patterns in CI/CD test environments
  • Analyse software behaviour with event annotations

Evaluate Performance

Software algorithms for Digital Signal Processing (DSP) or Machine Learning (ML) frequently require significant CPU resources and need to be optimized for the target hardware. Comparing performance of such "load heavy" algorithms requires that they can be automatically executed with different configurations parameters but using identical input.

Arm Virtual Hardware Services allows users to test their programs at scale with reproducible input patterns and so validate and optimize application performance which allows you to:

  • Compare speed of different implementations of an algorithm
  • Identify timing issues during system integration
  • Optimize resources (i.e. data buffers) towards application requirements

Continuous Testing

Applying continuous integration work flows for embedded applications can be complicated by the specifics of development environments and the need of executing the program on target hardware. So the development teams are often reluctant to spend initial effort setting up the continuous integration (CI) workflow even though the long-term benefits are undisputed as shown on the Figure below

Comparison of test efforts in CI and no CI workflows

Arm Virtual Hardware simplifies the setup and use of CI workflows in embedded projects.

For unit and integration tests virtual targets offer additional advantages over hardware, including:

  • Speed - no overhead for flashing the application on physical hardware. This saves time on small and fast unit tests.
  • Scale - virtual platforms can scale to run many tests in parallel. This makes virtual platforms more cost-effective than a farm of physical hardware.
  • Maintenance – unlike physical hardware, virtual platforms do not overheat, wear out from overuse, break from misuse, or use physical space and resources.
  • Upgrades – virtual platforms can be adapted and re-configured to match corresponding changes to the underlying hardware platform that is under development. These types of changes can be costly or impossible with physical hardware.

Release History

For details of the AVH AMI content see AMI Inventory.

Version Changes
1.2.3-beta (July 9, 2022) Changes:
  • Enabled timing annotations in VHTs by default (FASTSIM_DISABLE_TA is set to 0). If disabled (FASTSIM_DISABLE_TA set to 1) VSI streams data too quickly and prevents normal execution of ATS-Keyword Example.
1.2.2-beta (May 10, 2022) Changes:
  • New versioning scheme to match the AMI version (see AMI Inventory).
  • CMSIS-RTOS2 Validation: Advanced test suite for validating CMSIS-RTOS2 implementations on supported Cortex-M cores runs using AVH.
  • Corstone-310 VHT fixes: NPU access fix as well as a parameter for the flash region size allowing it to be a maximum of 64MB.
0.3-beta (Apr 2022) Added features:
0.2-beta (Feb 2022) Added features:
  • Extended Target support: additional Cortex-M processors are supported: Cortex-M0/M0+/M3/M4/M7/M23/M33.
  • Support in MDK-Professional: enables desktop development in classic tooling.
  • VIO Interface: simple interface to control I/O such as switches and LEDs via Python scripts.
  • VSocket Interface: BSD socket interface that connects the application under test to networks, including public Internet.
  • Get-Started example: added simple example demonstrating how to setup a Continuous Integration (CI) workflow using Arm Virtual Hardware.
0.1-beta (Nov 2021) Initial release

Product Roadmap

Arm Virtual Hardware is now in public beta phase. The table below shows features that we will deploy in the next 3 months. During the beta phase, you may evaluate how our products help in your development processes. The feature roadmap of Arm Virtual Hardware gives you indication what to expect. We will release this features as they become available during the beta phase to allow product evaluation before the final release.

Feature Description
Event Recorder CLI Tools Event Recorder is currently supported in MDK. This support will be extended to off-line and command line tools.
More Usage Examples Example projects help to get started: Audio/Video/Sensor I/O, Cloud connectivity, CI integration, Test code development is the range of examples we are working on.

Known Limitations

The current beta version of of Arm Virtual Hardware has the following known issues:

Virtual Peripherals:

  • After processor reset virtual interfaces may not work correctly. So it is required to restart the debug/run session.

Feedback and Support

Arm Virtual Hardware is supported during public beta via this Arm forum. Your feedback will influence our future roadmap and we try to help you promptly with your questions.