A Quick Overview of Instruction-Set Simulation and Tracing

The most important thing is what does it do? If you are building or using a simulator you need to be concerned at some level about the implementation. But first you need to figure out what you want it to do.
Why aren't you using the real thing? Do you want an accurate simulation? If yes, use real hardware. If no, make up the numbers. NullSIM. It's not as accurate, but it's cheaper and faster than any other simulation tool. It's the only universal simulator! Tired of configuring your simulator to do exactly what you want? Use NullSIM, with a familiar user interface and predictable results!
Instruction-set simulators can execute programs written or compiled for computers that do not yet exist, which no longer exist, or which are more expensive to purchase than to simulate. Simulators can also provide access to internal state that is invisible on the real hardware, can provide deterministic execution in the face of races, and can be used to ``stress test'' for situations that are hard to produce on real hardware.

Instruction-level tracing can provide detailed information about the behavior of programs; that information drives analyzers that analyze or predict behavior of various system components and which can, in turn, improve the design and implementation of everything from architectures to compilers to applications.

Although simulators and tracing tools appear to perform different tasks, they in practice do much the same work: both manipulate machine-level details, and both use similar implementation techniques.

This web page is a jumping-off point for lots of work related to instruction-level simulation and tracing. Please contribute! Please send comments, contributions, and suggestions to `pardo@xsim.com'. If you'd like to help, edit this page, there is lots that needs to be done; your help is appreciated.

This web also page lists a few OS emulation tools. Although these don't specifically fit the category of tools covered by this page, it's interesting to consider whether you could glue together a processor emulator and an OS emulator and wind up with a whole simulated system. To date, whole simulated systems are built as integrated tools, rather than being assembled modularly.

From instruction-set simulation and tracing