Developing a multi-level fault injection environment

Samynathan, Balavinayaga
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Dependability and fault tolerance are important aspects of modern computer systems. Particle strikes or electromagnetic interference can cause internal state of the system to change, which might cause errors to the system with non-negligible probability. Such errors are termed "soft errors". Bit flips in the design are good way to model these soft-errors. These bit-flips due to soft errors are random and transient in a design, making their analysis more difficult than simple stuck-at faults. Interestingly only a few of the flops which are affected by radiation cause soft errors, due to different propagation paths and functional impact of the flops. In order to improve the dependability of a system with reasonable overhead, the flops in a design which are most vulnerable to soft errors need to be protected. Each application case can potentially expose a slightly different set of flip-flops as vulnerable. Hence different tools are required to confidently analyse soft errors for evaluating the fault tolerance. As part of the thesis, I have developed a suite of tools for analyzing soft errors. The multi-level tools are necessary for complete fault tolerance analysis and identifying the most vulnerable flip-flops in a specific processor. The first part of the thesis describes the FPGA development framework for a specific processor. Simulation based fault injection techniques are described in the later sections. The final parts cover analysis techniques and applications that can benefit from such systems.