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Bridging the gap between soft and hard eFPGA design Aken’Ova, Victor Olubunmi

Abstract

Potential cost savings that come from the ability to make post fabrication changes in System-on-Chip (SoC) designs make embeddable Field Programmable Gate Array (eFPGA) cores an attractive design option. However, they are only available as "hard" macros from vendors as a small number of fixed size cores, and may not be optimal in terms of area, power or delay for a given SoC. A "soft" eFPGA methodology [01] [02] based on the ASIC design flow was used to create small amounts of programmable logic but incurs significant overhead. In this thesis, it is shown that this overhead can be reduced by deploying architecture-specific tactical standard cells in the ASIC flow, making eFPGA generation configurable, and imposing a regular structure on eFPGA architectures. For the set of benchmarks considered, the use of tactical standard cells resulted in area and delay savings of 58% and 40% respectively, when compared to cores implemented with generic standard cells [02]. Also, a proposed IP-generator-based approach for eFPGA design is shown to achieve results that are competitive with commercial full-custom hard eFPGA cores. For example, for some large benchmark circuits (over 1000 4-LUTs) the generated eFPGA fabrics were up to 40% smaller than available hard eFPGA cores. Finally, it is shown that a regular structured architecture makes it possible to generate fabrics with logic capacities that gready exceed what was previously possible [02] [15]. In addition, a structured layout approach yielded a 36% reduction (average) in wire lengths.

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