System-on-a-Chip (SoC) based Hardware Acceleration in Register Transfer Level (RTL) Design

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Niu, Xinwei
Florida International University
SoC; Hardware Acceleration; RTL; Video Codec; Computer and Systems Architecture; Electrical and Electronics
thesis / dissertation description
Today, modern System-on-a-Chip (SoC) systems have grown rapidly due to the increased processing power, while maintaining the size of the hardware circuit. The number of transistors on a chip continues to increase, but current SoC designs may not be able to exploit the potential performance, especially with energy consumption and chip area becoming two major concerns. Traditional SoC designs usually separate software and hardware. Thus, the process of improving the system performance is a complicated task for both software and hardware designers. The aim of this research is to develop hardware acceleration workflow for software applications. Thus, system performance can be improved with constraints of energy consumption and on-chip resource costs. The characteristics of software applications can be identified by using profiling tools. Hardware acceleration can have significant performance improvement for highly mathematical calculations or repeated functions. The performance of SoC systems can then be improved, if the hardware acceleration method is used to accelerate the element that incurs performance overheads. The concepts mentioned in this study can be easily applied to a variety of sophisticated software applications.The contributions of SoC-based hardware acceleration in the hardware-software co-design platform include the following: (1) Software profiling methods are applied to H.264 Coder-Decoder (CODEC) core. The hotspot function of aimed application is identified by using critical attributes such as cycles per loop, loop rounds, etc. (2) Hardware acceleration method based on Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is used to resolve system bottlenecks and improve system performance. The identified hotspot function is then converted to a hardware accelerator and mapped onto the hardware platform. Two types of hardware acceleration methods – central bus design and co-processor design, are implemented for comparison in the proposed architecture. (3) System specifications, such as performance, energy consumption, and resource costs, are measured and analyzed. The trade-off of these three factors is compared and balanced. Different hardware accelerators are implemented and evaluated based on system requirements. 4) The system verification platform is designed based on Integrated Circuit (IC) workflow. Hardware optimization techniques are used for higher performance and less resource costs.Experimental results show that the proposed hardware acceleration workflow for software applications is an efficient technique. The system can reach 2.8X performance improvements and save 31.84% energy consumption by applying the Bus-IP design. The Co-processor design can have 7.9X performance and save 75.85% energy consumption.