Mentor automates requirements tracking for the military market

The Aerospace and Defense (A&D) market isn’t an easy one to play in. Long design cycles, huge up-front costs with no guarantee of success, endless details buried in specifications, and disparate and sometimes warring teams spread across prime- and sub-contractors.

Sounds just like an FPGA or ASIC design, doesn’t it? No wonder Mentor Graphics is leveraging their astoundingly huge product portfolio into the military market. I recently met with Embedded Systems Division company executives Glenn Perry (General Manager) and Shay Benchorin (Director) at the Embedded Systems Conference and boy, are these guys serious about A&D. Moreover, they have the resources, the tools, and the tenacity to target some great Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) products at military problems.

Mentor’s not new to A&D. The company’s DO-254 tool suite has been around for a while and targets FAA and EASA aviation requirements compliance for safety-critical hardware, now mandated by contract for FPGAs and ASICs. As we went to press, the company announced an update to its HDL Designer tool, adding HDL coding checks for DO-254 compliance. In effect, FAA policy changes require designers to document their HDL coding standards prior to hardware design, and then review and verify compliance. The Mentor tool automates and simplifies compliance without requiring expensive third-party reviews. So it’s not surprising that Mentor would expand the concept of requirements creation and compliance assurance to the entire military design process, not just the hardware or IC portion.

Sensing an opportunity, Mentor’s newly released1 ReqTracer product is a requirements tracking tool that eliminates the painful process of documenting requirements and making incessant changes in Excel spreadsheets. Though initially oriented at hardware designs – IC, board- and system-level – the tool is capable of conducting software requirements tracking a la FAA/RTCA DO-178B/C. Figure 1 shows that modern A&D platforms such as the JSF certainly have a wide variety of design and verification data to track.

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Figure 1: Mentor Graphics is targeting aerospace and defense applications with design tools for hardware, software, and systems – including the new ReqTracer requirements management tool (not shown).
(Click graphic to zoom by 1.9x)

But what is “requirements tracking”? In a military platform, it consists of capturing and tagging (keywords) all requirements in the SOW, applying typical DoD verbiage such as, “shall, will, may” (and avoiding definition ambiguity like “fast” or “good”), managing the gazillions of ECOs, and tracing all of this over a typical 10-year program papered with DIDs and CDRLs2. It’s easy to see how just about any halfhearted tool could replace Excel for this n-dimensional matrix, but Mentor made sure to integrate with other widely used tools such as IBM’s DOORS, Word and PDF files, advanced verification suites for HDL (Mentor is an EDA company, after all), as well as Design and Testbench Data in C/C++, Verilog, and even MATLAB. And since we’re discussing military and safety-critical requirements, Mentor included a traceability matrix that generates artifacts for hardware (and soon software) certifiability.

It’s unclear to me how the tool integrates with other Application Life-cycle Management (ALM) tools such as offerings from Tail-f Systems and Coverity, or LDRA’s newly repackaged Embed-X with TBreq. Announced in March at Embedded World, LDRA’s Embed-X is an embedded ALM suite of products that “merges product requirements, business objectives, and metrics” into an actionable perspective. Embed-X focuses on certification support for DO-178B/C (the companion spec to DO-254) by automating traceability throughout the whole process. The company has partnered with Visure Solutions’ “requirements solutions” to create a fully certified application and “agile development” that supposedly cuts down the iterative process from months to weeks.

While LDRA has focused on the DoD from day one, Mentor is clearly picking from its arsenal and locking on military programs. Between the two of these companies, 10-year military programs will surely benefit from requirements tracking and ALM. Time to toss that Excel spreadsheet.

Chris A. Ciufo, Group Editorial Director cciufo@opensystemsmedia.com

1 ReqTracer has actually been available for about 12 months, but Mentor wasn’t talking much about it until recently.

2 Data Item Descriptions; Contract Data Requirements Lists