The FPGA-Shell, an effective open-source tool developed by BSC (FPGA Team and significant contributions from other colleagues at BSC) during the Horizon 2020 project MEEP, has been honoured with the HiPEAC (High Performance and Embedded Architecture and Compilation) Technology Transfer Awards in the 2023 edition. This recognition acknowledges the technology's successful transition from academia to industry and its potential to expedite the pre-silicon emulation process of RISC-V designs on FPGAs.
Emulating chip designs using field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) is crucial to validate the correctness of register transfer level (RTL) design before undertaking an expensive fabrication process. Rapid FPGA validation is gaining even greater significance with the open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA) democratizing processor design. However, FPGA emulation can be a bottleneck, as it requires a thorough understanding of the underlying hardware and different tools and skills for processor design.
FPGA-Shell is effective since it streamlines the pre-silicon emulation process using FPGAs. FPGA-Shell automates the FPGA bitstream generation by simply configuring a high-level configuration file. This makes it so you don't need to know much about FPGAs, and it helps finish projects faster, significantly saving time and resources.
Dr Behzad Salami (the head of the FPGA team at BSC) says FPGA-Shell has been validated with multiple open-source RISC-V systems and custom designs at BSC. In collaborations with academia and industry, FPGA-Shell is constantly evolving with new features. For example, as a part of a recent agreement with Lenovo, FPGA-Shell will be supported financially and technically to emulate multi-core RISC-V designs partitioned onto multiple FPGAs. The FPGA-Shell source code is also publicly available on GitHub for further development.
FPGA-Shell is open source on GitHub (https://github.com/MEEPproject/fpga_shell) for further development in the community. The HiPEAC TTA promotes novel and high-potential ideas. FPGA-Shell shows how academia and industry can potentially collaborate to contribute to RISC-V's design process for democratizing the processor design industry. Behzad Salami says: We continue to develop this technology further (and even other FPGA-related technologies) and welcome any international collaborations with industry and academia.