Circuit Design, Architecture and CAD for RRAM-based FPGAs

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have been indispensable components of embedded systems and datacenter infrastructures. However, energy efficiency of FPGAs has become a hard barrier preventing their expansion to more application contexts, due to two physical limitations: (1) The massive usage of routing multiplexers causes delay and power overheads as compared to ASICs. To reduce their power consumption, FPGAs have to operate at low supply voltage but sacrifice performance because the transistors drive degrade when working voltage decreases. (2) Using volatile memory technology forces FPGAs to lose configurations when powered off and to be reconfigured at each power on. Resistive Random Access Memories (RRAMs) have strong potentials in overcoming the physical limitations of conventional FPGAs. First of all, RRAMs grant FPGAs non-volatility, enabling FPGAs to be "Normally powered off, Instantly powered on". Second, by combining functionality of memory and pass-gate logic in one unique device, RRAMs can greatly reduce area and delay of routing elements. Third, when RRAMs are embedded into datpaths, the performance of circuits can be independent from their working voltage, beyond the limitations of CMOS circuits. However, researches and development of RRAM-based FPGAs are in their infancy. Most of area and performance predictions were achieved without solid circuit-level simulations and sophisticated Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools, causing the predicted improvements to be less convincing. In this thesis,we present high-performance and low-power RRAM-based FPGAs fromtransistorlevel circuit designs to architecture-level optimizations and CAD tools, using theoretical analysis, industrial electrical simulators and novel CAD tools. We believe that this is the first systematic study in the field, covering: From a circuit design perspective, we propose efficient RRAM-based programming circuits and routing multiplexers through both theoretical analysis and electrical simulations. The proposed 4T(ransitor)1R(RAM) programming structure demonstrates significant improvements in programming current, when compared to most popular 2T1R programming structure. 4T1R-based routingmultiplexer designs are proposed by considering various physical design parasitics, such as intrinsic capacitance of RRAMs and wells doping organization. The proposed 4T1R-based multiplexers outperformbest CMOS implementations significantly in area, delay and power at both nominal and near-Vt regime. From a CAD perspective, we develop a generic FPGA architecture exploration tool, FPGASPICE, modeling a full FPGA fabric with SPICE and Verilog netlists. FPGA-SPICE provides different levels of testbenches and techniques to split large SPICE netlists, in order to obtain better trade-off between simulation time and accuracy. FPGA-SPICE can capture area and power characteristics of SRAM-based and RRAM-based FPGAs more accurately than the currently best analyticalmodels. From an architecture perspective, we propose architecture-level optimizations for RRAMbased FPGAs and quantify their minimumrequirements for RRAM devices. Compared to the best SRAM-based FPGAs, an optimized RRAM-based FPGA architecture brings significant reduction in area, delay and power respectively. In particular, RRAM-based FPGAs operating in the near-Vt regime demonstrate a 5x power improvement without delay overhead as compared to optimized SRAM-based FPGA operating at nominal working voltage.

De Micheli, Giovanni
Gaillardon, Pierre-Emmanuel Julien Marc
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis8084-2

 Record created 2017-11-14, last modified 2018-12-05

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