'Accelerating FPGA Design', Oslo

Published: 11. Jan 2017

Accelerating FPGA Design    
Learn how basic quality improvement will also reduce development time and allow efficient reuse. It's all about architecture, structure and pitfall prevention.

This is an extended Design part of what was previously "FPGA Development Best Practices"

Date:           January 11-12 (Wedn-Thursday)

Time of day:  Wednesday: 10:00-17:00. Thursday: 8:30-16:00

Language:     English

Place:           Oslo (Asker, Scandic Hotel), Norway
                   (5 minutes walk from Asker train station - on the airport express line)

Registration fee: NOK 10.900  (+VAT)  
      for multiple participants from the same company: 
      2nd: NOK 10.000, 3rd: NOK 9.000, 4th: NOK 8.000, 5th: NOK 7.000)  

Lunch and coffee:  Included in the registration fee

Course responsible: Espen Tallaksen, Bitvis AS     (Mobile: +47 934 21 277)

Registration: On email to info@bitvis.no
  Please give the following info: Full name, Company, email, mobile phone, invoice address and any potential invoice reference.

Deadline for registration: The course will be held independent of number of participants as we already have sufficient interest. There are currently limited seating, and priority will be given based on time of registration.

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This course is about improving Digital design, Architecture and Coding for FPGA Development - and avoiding common Pitfalls. The course is:

- Tool independent (No specidic EDA vendor tools)
- Technology independent (Technology agnostic for ASIC, Xilinx, Altera, MicroSemi, etc.)
- Mainly HDL independent (Applies to VHDL, Verilog and SystemVerilog)
  Code examples are for VHDL, but almost all is generally applicable (see details below)

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Efficiency and quality is all a question of overview, readability, maintainability and re-use,
- and a good architecture all the way down is the most important answer.

Accelerating FPGA and Digital ASIC Design

Digital design for FPGAs and ASICs has a huge improvement potential with respect to development time and product quality.
   A lot of time is wasted on inefficient design and lack of awareness and knowledge of the most critical digital design issues. This also seriously affects the quality of the end product. The really good thing is that this huge improvement potential can be realised just by making a few important changes to the way we design.
This course is tool independent, technology independent and HDL independent. 

The most important design related issues to improve are:

-          Design Architecture & Structure
-          Clock Domain Crossing
-          Coding and General Digital Design
-          Reuse and Design for Reuse
-          Timing Closure
-          Quality Assurance - at the right level

Design Architecture and Structure

This is probably the single most important issue with respect to development efficiency and quality. Unfortunately most FPGA modules are not at all properly structured. There is of course always some kind of structure, but seldom even close to a good and efficient structure. This course spends a lot time on some standard bad and a desired good design structuring. Architecture is key at all levels from top level to deep down in the module micro architecture.

  A good design structure yields a good overview and understand, easier extendibility and maintainability, and far better modified reuse. A very important side effect is lower power consumption, better frequency performance and a smaller FPGA/ASIC footprint.

Clock Domain Crossing (CDC)

CDC is one of the most error prone areas of digital design. Most designers believe they know how to handle this perfectly well, - but for some strange reason this is still the worst problem in a lot of projects. What we often see is that a CDC was not as trivial as first assumed. There are lots of special cases where you need to know exactly how to handle a specific challenge for a specific technology/device given your specific synthesis and P&R tool. This course looks at general CDC issues and how to handle them, but also looks closer at a lot of special scenarios.

Coding and General Digital Design

Coding style is very individual, and to a certain extent that is acceptable. However, most coding styles are not really acceptable or good enough if you are considering readability, understanding and maintenance, and thus not at all acceptable with respect to efficiency and quality. This course looks at how to write understandable code.

   There are some myths and misunderstandings about FSM coding and Reset handling. We will have a closer look at that in this course.

   Registers are defined and described multiple places like C header files, HDL design files, HDL Testbench and Documentation. This should really be generated and maintained automatically to save time and keep all parts synchronized. We will show one way of handling this.

This section will show examples in VHDL, but 80-90% applies equally well to Verilog.

Reuse and Design for Reuse

Actually Reuse and Design for Reuse are two totally different subjects.
The course will look at the following:

-          Design for ‘Plug and Play’ reuse
-          Wrapping for ‘Untouched reuse’
-          Design for modified reuse

All of these aspects have different challenges and benefits, and we will go into some detail on that.

Timing Closure

The course will not dive into technology specific optimization, but will look at how performance may be improved by applying a more structured architecture.

Verification

Verification scope, priorities, order, purpose, efficiency. 
(This course will not look at Verification architecture, structure or language, which is all properly covered in a separate course 'Accelerating FPGA VHDL Verification'.)

Quality Assurance - at the right level

Most quality issues will be covered while discussing architecture, CDC and coding, but the course will also look at how quality may be improved by walk-through, sparring, reviews, checklists, checklist handling, conventions, documentation etc.
(For Conventions VHDL will be used as example) 

In General

There will be a few examples on quite common bad approaches, and more examples on good approaches for architecture, CDC, Coding, Reuse, etc.

Almost all examples are both technology (FPGA/ASIC) and language (VHDL/Verilog/SV) independent.

(There is perhaps an even bigger improvement potential on Verification. This is however covered in a different course ‘Accelerating FPGA VHDL Verification’.)

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Part of this course was last held in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo in 2014 and 2015.
The verification part of the old course has been split out as a separate verification course – allowing this Design-course to now be technology and HDL language independent. 
The feedback from previous course participants in Scandinavia has been very good (from designers at all levels, from 1 to 30 years’ experience).

The main focus in this course is quality and efficiency improvement, making you a better designer and your company a better product development organisation. 
All slides will be in English.

Quotes from previous courses:

-  The only bad thing about this course - is that we didn't do it earlier
-  An eye opener - Most issues apply directly in our organisation
-  A very good course on very relevant improvement potentials
-  I think the material is need-to-know for every designer
- The course makes you think through how you and your company are doing things

Target audience and Prerequisites:

The course is intended for FPGA designers and Digital ASIC designers who wants to work smarter and more efficiently - and design products with higher quality.

The course participants must have working knowledge of FPGA design or Digital ASIC design. Previous participants have had from 1 year to 30 years experience.

80-90% of the course is HDL independent. VHDL is used where code examples are needed, but most of this will be directly transferable to Verilog or SystemVerilog. 

Other info:

 This course is complementary to the courses offered by FPGA vendors and tool vendors - and also complementary to more general courses offered by Doulos, Esperan, etc. and various universities. The strong focus on the issues that matter the most for efficiency and quality makes this a good platform for a pragmatic approach to improving your FPGA and ASIC projects.

This course may also be held on-site on request - with a duration of one to three days depending on your starting point and level of ambition. Such a course allows some flexibility and adaptation - and would promote more interaction. Presentation in English or Norwegian as requested.


Please note that the previous course 'FPGA Development Best Practices' is now split into two different courses:

- Accelerating FPGA and Digital ASIC Design (This course)
  (Digital Design.  Language, tool and technology independent )
- Accelerating FPGA VHDL Verification (Structured verification with examples from UVVM)