UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Vector processing as a soft-core processor accelerator Yu, Jason Kwok Kwun


Soft processors simplify hardware design by being able to implement complex control strategies using software. However, they are not fast enough for many intensive data-processing tasks, such as highly data-parallel embedded applications. This thesis suggests adding a vector processing core to the soft processor as a general-purpose accelerator for these types of applications. The approach has the benefits of a purely software-oriented development model, a fixed ISA allowing parallel software and hardware development, a single accelerator that can accelerate multiple functions in an application, and scalable performance with a single source code. With no hardware design experience needed, a software programmer can make area-versus-performance tradeoffs by scaling the number of functional units and register file bandwidth with a single parameter. The soft vector processor can be further customized by a number of secondary parameters to add and remove features for the specific application to optimize resource utilization. This thesis shows that a vector processing architecture maps efficiently into an FPGA and provides a scalable amount of performance for a reasonable amount of area. Configurations of the soft vector processor with different performance levels are estimated to achieve speedups of 2-24x for 5-26x the area of a Nios II/s processor on three benchmark kernels.

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