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APT Advanced Processor Technologies Research Group

High-level Synthesis of Elasticity: From Models to Circuits

Mahdi Jelodari Mamaghani


The forward-looking design trend in Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) is Systems-on-Chip (SoC). SoC aims to integrate multiple computation, communication and storage components into a single chip and targets high performance systems by elimination of most off-chip communication costs. It is agreed that running SoC components under control of a single clock is not feasible and clock distribution has been revealed as a critical obstacle. Asynchronous techniques can be exploited to relax strict timing constraints of traditional design methodologies. A less radical solution is Globally Asynchronous Locally Synchronous (GALS) systems which offer potential advantages in this respect, as it preserves system modularity and concentrates on communication aspects. The problem with GALS design is the relative lack of familiarity of traditional designers with this approach. To deal with this, a methodology is proposed to allow designers implement GALS systems at a higher abstraction level which is independent of technology, protocol, data encoding or any other details of circuit design.

With the recent advances in concurrent programming, Communicating Sequential Processes (CSP) has gained popularity again. The CSP-based programming languages, like Go, have emerged to allow software designers to exploit the model toward implementing scalable softwares. CSP has a long history since 90's in the hardware domain, mainly utilised by the Asynchronous community. In this thesis, a novel high level synthesis framework is proposed, called eTeak, which enables the designers to implement GALS-like systems in a CSP-based language (Balsa) without concerning about the timing issues at system level.

The proposed approach in this thesis takes advantage of synchronous elasticity to introduce a common timing discipline to the circuit which transforms it into a latency- insensitive system. A latency-insensitive system is able to tolerate dynamic changes in the computation and communication delays. This feature enables eTeak to raise the level of abstraction to the data-flow representation where functionality is separated from timing details. Therefore, it is possible for a designer to specify a large scale system by only concentrating on its functionality and postpone timing complexity to when synthesis takes place.

Unlike many previous systems, the proposed design flow employs data-driven synthesis style to distribute controllers through the network which contributes to its modularity and enhanced concurrency. This facilitates partitioning into elastic blocks and is supposed to pave the road for further optimisations, such retiming and re-synthesis, using commercial EDA tools.

The thesis is available as PDF (4.2 MB).