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Dynamically configurable system-on-chip platforms : architectures and design methodologies


Rapid advances in semiconductor technology have led to an era where entire systems, consisting of complex, heterogeneous components, can be integrated on a single chip, referred to as System-on-Chip (SoC). Due to the escalating cost in designing customized application- specific SoCs, recent years have witnessed the emergence of 'platform-based' SoCs. These systems consist of largely pre-designed, general-purpose components that can be re- targeted towards numerous applications, thereby amortizing design costs. A key determinant to the success of such platforms is the extent to which they can be customized to meet the diverse requirements imposed by different applications. Modern SoC platforms are mostly limited to providing a one-time (static) customization of the platform hardware. However, with the convergence of multiple diverse applications on the same platform, each imposing time-varying requirements, there is a growing need for SoC platforms that can be dynamically configured. Provisioning for such configurability and exploiting it at run-time is the focus of this dissertation. This dissertation proposes SoC platforms featuring multiple, dynamic configurability options, and illustrates their advantages over existing design styles. It introduces the concept of Dynamic Platform Management, a methodology for the run-time customization of such platforms in a coordinated manner, to satisfy the time-varying requirements imposed by the executing applications. The dissertation addresses the problem of provisioning for dynamic configurability by proposing a novel, on-chip communication architecture that features a dynamically configurable topology. Dynamic management techniques are then presented for platforms featuring multiple, run-time configurable components. In particular, it considers platforms consisting of configurable processors, flexible memory architectures, and configurable communication architectures. Finally, it investigates the benefits of synergistically combining techniques for configuring platform hardware with techniques for adapting application behavior. Experiments conducted on a large number of SoC designs, and an implementation of dynamic platform management on the Altera Excalibur development board demonstrate that configurable platforms with dynamic platform management result in significantly superior application performance, more efficient utilization of platform resources, and improved energy efficiency compared to conventional static approaches. Hence, the techniques described in this dissertation will facilitate more wide-spread adoption of the platform-based approach, leading to low-cost, yet function-rich and energy- efficient devices

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