HDL simulation software has come a long way since its early origin as a single proprietary product offered by one company. Today, Simulators are available from many vendors, at all price points. For desktop/personal use, Aldec, Mentor, LogicSim, SynaptiCAD,TarangEDA and others offer <$5000 USD tool-suites for the Windows 2000/XP platform. The suites bundle the simulator engine with a complete development environment: text editor, waveform viewer, and RTL-level browser. Additionally, limited-functionality editions of the Aldec and ModelSim simulator are downloadable free of charge, from their respective OEM partners (Microsemi, Altera, Lattice Semiconductor, Xilinx, etc.) For those desiring open-source software, there is Icarus Verilog,GHDL among others.
Beyond the desktop level, enterprise-level simulators offer faster simulation runtime, more robust support for mixed-language (VHDL and Verilog) simulation, and most importantly, are validated for timing-accurate (SDF-annotated) gate-level simulation. The last point is critical for the ASIC tapeout process, when a design-database is released to manufacturing. (Semiconductor foundries stipulate the usage of tools chosen from an approved list, in order for the customer's design to receive signoff status. Although the customer is not required to perform any signoff checking, the tremendous cost of a wafer order has generally ensured thorough design-validation on the part of the customer.) The three major signoff-grade simulators include Cadence Incisive Enterprise Simulator, Mentor ModelSim/SE, and Synopsys VCS. Pricing is not published publicly, but all three vendors charge $25,000-$100,000 USD per seat, 1-year time-based license.
FPGA vendors do not require expensive enterprise simulators for their design flow. In fact, most vendors include an OEM version of a third-party HDL simulator in their design suite. The bundled simulator is taken from an entry-level or low-capacity edition, and bundled with the FPGA vendor's device libraries. For designs targeting high-capacity FPGA, a standalone simulator is recommended, as the OEM-version may lack the capacity or speed to effectively handle large designs.
A simulator with complete design environment aimed at FPGA-applications. Aldec licenses Active-HDL to FPGA-vendors, and the underlying engine can be found in the design-suites of those vendors. While ActiveHDL is a low-cost product, Aldec also offers a more expensive, higher-performance simulator called "Riviera-PRO."
Cadence initially acquired Gateway Design, thereby acquiring Verilog-XL. In response to competition from faster simulators, Cadence developed its own compiled-language simulator, NC-Verilog. The modern version of the NCsim family, called Incisive Enterprise Simulator, includes Verilog, VHDL, and SystemVerilog support. It also provides support for the e verification language, and a fast SystemC simulation kernel.
Xilinx's simulator comes bundled with the ISE Design Suite. ISE Simulator (ISim) provides support for mixed-mode language simulation including, but not limited to, simulation of designs targeted for Xilinx's FPGAs and CPLDs.
The original Modeltech (VHDL) simulator was the first mixed-language simulator capable of simulating VHDL and Verilog design entities together. In 2003, ModelSim 5.8 was the first simulator to begin supporting features of the Accellera SystemVerilog 3.0 standard. In 2005 Mentor introduced Questa to provide high performance Verilog and SystemVerilog simulation and expand Verification capabilities to more advanced methodologies such as Assertion Based Verification and Functional Coverage. Today Questa is the leading high performance SystemVerilog and Mixed simulator supporting a full suite of methodologies including industry standard OVM and UVM. ModelSim is still the leading simulator for FPGA design.
MPsim is a fast compiled simulator with full support for Verilog, SystemVerilog and SystemC. It includes Designer, integrated Verilog and SystemVerilog debugging environment and has built-in support for multi-cpu simulation.
The first Verilog simulator available on the Windows OS. The simulator had a cycle-based counterpart called 'CycleDrive'. FrontLine was sold to Avant! in 1998, which was later acquired by Synopsys in 2002. Synopsys discontinued Purespeed in favor of its well-established VCS simulator.
SMASH is a mixed-signal, multi-language simulator for IC or PCB designs. It uses SPICE syntax for analog descriptions, Verilog-HDL and VHDL for digital, Verilog-A/AMS, VHDL-AMS and ABCD (a combination of SPICE and C) for analog behavioral, and C for DSP algorithms.
Cycle based simulator originally developed at DEC. The DEC developers spun off to form Quickturn Design Systems. Quickturn was later acquired by Cadence, who discontinued the product in 2005. Speedsim featured an innovative slotted bit-slice architecture that supported simulation of up to 32 tests in parallel.
Originally developed by John Sanguinetti, Peter Eichenberger and Michael McNamara under the startup company Chronologic Simulation, VCS (Verilog Compiled code Simulator) was purchased by Synopsys, where development continued.
Verilogger Pro is a low-cost interpreted simulator based on Elliot Mednick's VeriWell code base. Verilogger Extreme is a newer, compiled-code simulator that is Verilog-2001 compliant and much faster than Pro.
The original Verilog simulator, Gateway Design's Verilog-XL was the first (and only, for a time) Verilog simulator to be qualified for ASIC (validation) sign-off. After its acquisition by Cadence Design Systems, Verilog-XL changed very little over the years, retaining an interpreted language engine, and freezing language-support at Verilog-1995. Cadence recommends Incisive Enterprise Simulator for new design projects, as XL no longer receives active development. Nevertheless, XL continues to find use in companies with large codebases of legacy Verilog. Many early Verilog codebases will only simulate properly in Verilog-XL, due to variation in language implementation of other simulators.
Xilinx's Vivado Simulator comes as part of the Vivado design suite. It is a compiled-language simulator that supports mixed language, TCL scripts, encrypted IP and enhanced verification. Vivado is targeted at Xilinx's larger FPGAs, and is slowly replacing ISE as their mainline tool chain. As of mid 2014, Vivado covered Xilinx's mid scale and large FPGAs, and ISE covered the mid scale and smaller FPGAs and all CPLDs.
Developed as a fault simulator but can also be used as a logic simulator.
Some non-free commercial simulators (such as ModelSim) are available in student, or evaluation/demo editions. These editions generally have many features disabled, arbitrary limits on simulation design size, but are offered free of charge.
LIFTING (LIRMM Fault Simulator) is an open-source simulator able to perform both logic and fault simulation for single/multiple stuck-at faults and single event upset (SEU) on digital circuits described in Verilog.
Supports functions, tasks and module instantiation. Still lacks a lot of features, but this release has enough for a VLSI student to use and learn Verilog. Supports only behavioral constructs of Verilog and minimal simulation constructs such as 'initial' statements.