Raising the abstraction level of hardware software co-designs

by Richard Donald Leys

Institution: Universität Heidelberg
Department: The Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Record ID: 1106358
Full text PDF: http://www.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/archiv/18616


As lithographic processes’ size to manufacture transistors shrink, the number of available transistors on integrated circuits (IC) increases. Newly manufactured ICs require innovations to leverage improved performances or area occupation, and feature more and more components on the same chip, which work together and/or independently to provide an advanced set of functions. The complexity of hardware design flows consequently increased: from circuit description to functional verification and in-system interface, every stage is now more and more driven by a cross-product function between a set of reusable functional units and constraints to target a specific technology (ASIC, FPGAs etc…) and configuration. This diversity in the possible outputs for a set of components calls for the development of new methodologies to raise the abstraction level in the design flows. A better abstraction allows optimizing and automating more processes, from component specification to final implementation and interfacing. New Abstraction levels have always emerged through industry standards like Verilog and VHDL for digital circuit description, SystemVerilog/UVM/e for functional verification, or by vendor specific toolchains. However, standards and software toolchains usually lack flexibility as they operate for a bounded range of functionalities. This thesis presents some novel applications covering various stages of the design flow, ranging from digital design input (register file generator) and ASIC circuit implementation (Hierarchical Floorplaning), up to in-system IC integration (Part design language). They are backed by a generic software design methodology based on functional programming used to develop domain specific languages embedded in the TCL interpreter. To complete the design flow path from circuit implementation to software integration, a hardware-software interfacing point linked with the Register File Generator design tool will be presented. It is based on a generic and innovative XML-Data binding technology which was developed during this work. The iterative loop between application definition and flexible software components reuse presented along this work also provides a general guideline to develop future design flow components, and guarantee their integration in any target environment.