Generating and evaluating application-specific hardware extensions

Nikolaos Kavvadias

Modern platform-based design involves the application-specific extension of embedded processors to fit customer requirements. To accomplish this task, the possibilities offered by recent custom/extensible processors for tuning their instruction set and microarchitecture to the applications of interest have to be exploited. A significant factor often determining the success of this process is the utomation available in application analysis and custom instruction generation. In this paper we present YARDstick, a design automation tool for custom processor development flows that focuses on generating and evaluating application-specific hardware extensions. YARDstick is a building block for ASIP development, integrating application analysis, custom instruction generation and selection with user-defined compiler intermediate representations. In a YARDstick-enabled environment, practical issues in traditional ASIP design are confronted efficiently; the exploration infrastructure is liberated from compiler and simulator idiosyncrasies, since the ASIP designer is empowered with the freedom of specifying the target architectures of choice and adding new implementations of analyses and custom instruction generation/selection methods. To illustrate the capabilities of the YARDstick approach, we present interesting exploration scenarios: quantifying the effect of machine-dependent compiler optimizations and the selection of the target architecture in terms of operation set and memory model on custom instruction generation/selection under different input/output constraints.

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