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Rapid VLIW Processor Customization for Signal Processing Applications Using Combinational Hardware Functions

Author(s): Hoare Raymond R | Jones Alex K | Kusic Dara | Fazekas Joshua | Foster John | Tung Shenchih | McCloud Michael

Journal: EURASIP Journal on Advances in Signal Processing
ISSN 1687-6172

Volume: 2006;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 046472;
Date: 2006;
Original page

This paper presents an architecture that combines VLIW (very long instruction word) processing with the capability to introduce application-specific customized instructions and highly parallel combinational hardware functions for the acceleration of signal processing applications. To support this architecture, a compilation and design automation flow is described for algorithms written in C. The key contributions of this paper are as follows: (1) a 4-way VLIW processor implemented in an FPGA, (2) large speedups through hardware functions, (3) a hardware/software interface with zero overhead, (4) a design methodology for implementing signal processing applications on this architecture, (5) tractable design automation techniques for extracting and synthesizing hardware functions. Several design tradeoffs for the architecture were examined including the number of VLIW functional units and register file size. The architecture was implemented on an Altera Stratix II FPGA. The Stratix II device was selected because it offers a large number of high-speed DSP (digital signal processing) blocks that execute multiply-accumulate operations. Using the MediaBench benchmark suite, we tested our methodology and architecture to accelerate software. Our combined VLIW processor with hardware functions was compared to that of software executing on a RISC processor, specifically the soft core embedded NIOS II processor. For software kernels converted into hardware functions, we show a hardware performance multiplier of up to times that of software with an average times faster. For the entire application in which only a portion of the software is converted to hardware, the performance improvement is as much as 30X times faster than the nonaccelerated application, with a 12X improvement on average.
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