Modern development methods and tools for embedded reconfigurable systems: A survey

J. Jozwiak, N. Nedjah and M. Figueroa


Heterogeneous reconfigurable systems provide drastically higher performance and lower power consumption than traditional CPU-centric systems. Moreover, they do it at much lower costs and shorter times to market than non-reconfigurable hardware solutions. They also provide the flexibility that is often required for the engineering of modern robust and adaptive systems. Due to their heterogeneity, flexibility and potential for highly optimized application-specific instantiation, reconfigurable systems are adequate for a very broad class of applications across different industry sectors. What prevents the reconfigurable system paradigm from a broad proliferation is the lack of adequate development methodologies and electronics design tools for this kind of systems. The ideal would be a seamless compilation of a high-level computation process specification into an optimized mixture of machine code executed on traditional CPU-centric processors and on the application-specific decentralized parallel data-flow-dominated reconfigurable processors and hardware accelerators. Although much research and development in this direction was recently performed, the adequate methodologies and tools necessary to implement this compilation process as an effective and efficient hardware/software co-synthesis flow are unfortunately not yet in place. This paper focuses on the recent developments and development trends in the design methods and synthesis tools for reconfigurable systems. Reconfigurable system synthesis performs two basic tasks: system structure construction and application process mapping on the structure. It is thus more complex than standard (multi-)processor-based system synthesis for software-programmable systems that only involves application mapping. The system structure construction may involve the macro-architecture synthesis, the micro-architecture synthesis, and the actual hardware synthesis. Also, the application process mapping can be more complicated and dynamic in reconfigurable systems. This paper reviews the recent methods and tools for the macro- and micro-architecture synthesis, and for the application mapping of reconfigurable systems. it puts much attention to the relevant and currently hot topic of (re-)configurable application-specific instruction set processors (ASIP) synthesis, and specifically, ASIP instruction set extension. It also discusses the methods and tools for reconfigurable systems involving CPU-centric processors collaborating with reconfigurable hardware sub-systems, for which the main problem is to decide which computation processes should be implemented in software and which in hardware, but the hardware/software partitioning has to account for the hardware sharing by different computation processes and for the reconfiguration processes. The reconfigurable system area is a very promising, but quite a new field, with many open research and development topics. The paper reviews some of the future trends in the reconfigurable system development methods and tools. Finally, the discussion of the paper is summarized and concluded.


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