Design, Implementation and Evaluation of a Configurable NoC for AcENoCs FPGA Accelerated Emulation Platform
Lotlikar, Swapnil Subhash
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The heterogenous nature and the demand for extensive parallel processing in modern applications have resulted in widespread use of Multicore System-on-Chip (SoC) architectures. The emerging Network-on-Chip (NoC) architecture provides an energy-efficient and scalable communication solution for Multicore SoCs, serving as a powerful replacement for traditional bus-based solutions. The key to successful realization of such architectures is a flexible, fast and robust emulation platform for fast design space exploration. In this research, we present the design and evaluation of a highly configurable NoC used in AcENoCs (Accelerated Emulation platform for NoCs), a flexible and cycle accurate field programmable gate array (FPGA) emulation platform for validating NoC architectures. Along with the implementation details, we also discuss the various design optimizations and tradeoffs, and assess the performance improvements of AcENoCs over existing simulators and emulators. We design a hardware library consisting of routers and links using verilog hardware description language (HDL). The router is parameterized and has a configurable number of physical ports, virtual channels (VCs) and pipeline depth. A packet switched NoC is constructed by connecting the routers in either 2D-Mesh or 2D-Torus topology. The NoC is integrated in the AcENoCs platform and prototyped on Xilinx Virtex-5 FPGA. The NoC was evaluated under various synthetic and realistic workloads generated by AcENoCs' traffic generators implemented on the Xilinx MicroBlaze embedded processor. In order to validate the NoC design, performance metrics like average latency and throughput were measured and compared against the results obtained using standard network simulators. FPGA implementation of the NoC using Xilinx tools indicated a 76% LUT utilization for a 5x5 2D-Mesh network. A VC allocator was found to be the single largest consumer of hardware resources within a router. The router design synthesized at a frequency of 135MHz, 124MHz and 109MHz for 3-port, 4-port and 5-port configurations, respectively. The operational frequency of the router in the AcENoCs environment was limited only by the software execution latency even though the hardware itself could be clocked at a much higher rate. An AcENoCs emulator showed speedup improvements of 10000-12000X over HDL simulators and 5-15X over software simulators, without sacrificing cycle accuracy.