Transaction-level modeling (TLM) is a high-level approach to modeling digital systems where details of communication among modules are separated from the details of the implementation of functional units or of the communication architecture. Communication mechanisms such as buses or FIFOs are modeled as channels, and are presented to modules using SystemC interface classes. Transaction requests take place by calling interface functions of these channel models, which encapsulate low-level details of the information exchange. At the transaction level, the emphasis is more on the functionality of the data transfers – what data are transferred to and from what locations – and less on their actual implementation, that is, on the actual protocol used for data transfer. This approach makes it easier for the system-level designer to experiment, for example, with different bus architectures (all supporting a common abstract interface) without having to recode models that interact with any of the buses, provided these models interact with the bus through the common interface.
However, the application of transaction-level modeling is not specific to the SystemC language and can be used with other languages. The concept of TLM first appears in system level language and modeling domain.
Roots of the term TLM, or "Where is the Level in TLM?"
TLM was supposed to come out as TBM (= transaction-based modeling). In 2000, Thorsten Grötker, R&D Manager at Synopsys was preparing a presentation on the communication mechanism in what was to become the SystemC 2.0 standard. Gilles Baillieu, then a corporate application engineer at Synopsys, insisted that the new term had to contain "level", as in "register-transfer level" or "behavioral level". The fact that TLM does not denote a single level of abstraction but rather a modeling technique didn't make him change his mind. It had to be "level" in order to make it stick. So it became "TLM", and it stuck.
The Open SystemC Initiative was formed to standardize and proliferate the use of the SystemC language. That organization is sponsored by major EDA vendors and user customers sharing a common interest in facilitating tool development and IP interoperability. The organization developed the OSCI simulator for open use and distribution.
Since those early days SystemC has been adopted as the language of choice for high level synthesis, connecting the design modeling and virtual prototype application domains with the functional verification and automated path gate level implementation. This offers project teams the ability to produce one model for multiple purposes. At the 2010 DVCon event, OSCI produced a specification of the first synthesizable subset of SystemC for industry standardization.
- Discrete event simulation (DES)
- Event loop
- Message passing
- Reactor pattern vs. Proactor pattern
- Transaction processing
- T. Grötker, S. Liao, G. Martin, S. Swan, System Design with SystemC. Springer, 2002, Chapter 8., pp. 131. ISBN 1-4020-7072-1 (quoted with permission)
- L. Cai, D. Gajski, Transaction Level Modeling: An Overview, in proceedings of the Int. Conference on HW/SW Codesign and System Synthesis (CODES-ISSS), Oct. 2003, pp. 19–24
- SystemC.org - SystemC home page.