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Improving the Productivity of Hardware Design

  • Author(s): Trapani Possignolo, Rafael
  • Advisor(s): Renau, Jose
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Current hardware development techniques contrast with agile methods that became popular in modern software development. This has been mitigated with technology scaling, when performance gains for every generation relied mostly on transistor shrinking. However, the end of Dennard’s scaling, the limitations in multicore design and with hardware accelerators emerging as an alternative to improve performance, hardware design has become an important bottleneck for chip developers. This is particularly important as application domain experts, who are not hardware designers, turn to hardware accelerators to make new technologies viable. In this dissertation, I discuss efforts to improve hardware design productivity: improving pipeline design and reducing synthesis runtime. Pipeline configuration is typically set very early in the design phase, which make changes costly. I proposed Fluid Pipelines, a novel design style that allows for changes in the number of pipeline stages late in the design cycle. To accurately evaluate the impact of pipeline changes, a designer needs to wait for synthesis results. I also proposed LiveSynth and SMatch, two incremental techniques that re-use existing synthesis results to drastically reduce synthesis time. Combined with work from others, I expect these techniques to ease design overhead and improve the adoption of domain specific hardware.

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