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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19114

Title: FPGA-based Soft Vector Processors
Authors: Yiannacouras, Peter
Advisor: Rose, Jonathan S.
Steffan, J. Gregory
Department: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Keywords: soft processor
soft Vector processor
data parallel
Issue Date: 23-Feb-2010
Abstract: FPGAs are increasingly used to implement embedded digital systems because of their low time-to-market and low costs compared to integrated circuit design, as well as their superior performance and area over a general purpose microprocessor. However, the hardware design necessary to achieve this superior performance and area is very difficult to perform causing long design times and preventing wide-spread adoption of FPGA technology. The amount of hardware design can be reduced by employing a microprocessor for less-critical computation in the system. Often this microprocessor is implemented using the FPGA reprogrammable fabric as a soft processor which can preserve the benefits of a single-chip FPGA solution without specializing the device with dedicated hard processors. Current soft processors have simple architectures that provide performance adequate for only the least-critical computations. Our goal is to improve soft processors by scaling their performance and expanding their suitability to more critical computation. To this end we focus on the data parallelism found in many embedded applications and propose that soft processors be augmented with vector extensions to exploit this parallelism. We support this proposal through experimentation with a parameterized soft vector processor called VESPA (Vector Extended Soft Processor Architecture) which is designed, implemented, and evaluated on real FPGA hardware. The scalability of VESPA combined with several other architectural parameters can be used to finely span a large design space and derive a custom architecture for exactly matching the needs of an application. Such customization is a key advantage for soft processors since their architectures can be easily reconfigured by the end-user. Specifically, customizations can be made to the pipeline, functional units, and memory system within VESPA. In addition, general purpose overheads can be automatically eliminated from VESPA. Comparing VESPA to manual hardware design, we observe a 13x speed advantage for hardware over our fastest VESPA, though this is significantly less than the 500x speed advantage over scalar soft processors. The performance-per-area of VESPA is also observed to be significantly higher than a scalar soft processor suggesting that the addition of vector extensions makes more efficient use of silicon area for data parallel workloads.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19114
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
The Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering - Doctoral theses

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