Rapid Area-Time Estimation Technique for Porting C-based Applications onto FPGA platforms

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My Chuong Lieu
Siew Kei Lam
Thambipillai Srikanthan


High-level area-time estimation is an essential step to facilitate rapid design exploration for FPGA implementations. Existing works in high-level area-time estimation usually ignore the physical effects of the design after place and route, which have a notable impact on the maximum achievable speed of the design. In this paper, we propose a framework to rapidly estimate the area-time measures of mapping C-applications onto FPGA. The framework relies on the Trimaran compiler to generate an optimized high-level IR (Intermediate Representation) of the C-applications. Area-time estimation of the IR is then performed using a proposed estimation model that is based on an architecture template with application-specific heterogeneous functional units. In order to accurately predict the delay of the design after place and route, we introduce a new metric for the estimation that models the criticality of the design's interconnectivity. Experimental results based on a set of embedded functions show that the proposed area estimation can achieve comparable results with the synthesis results of a commercial FPGA tool in the order of milliseconds. For the C functions used in our experiments, the proposed delay estimation leads to an average error of about 3% when compared to the post place and route results. In addition, we demonstrate the robustness of the proposed framework which provides consistent results for different FPGA families. The contribution of this paper is a scalable methodology for rapid estimation of cost-benefit metrics of C-based algorithms to be accelerated on FPGA-based high-performance computing platform.

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