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Title: Modular transformation of embedded systems from firm-cores to soft-cores

Authors: Ehsan Ali; Wanchalerm Pora

Addresses: Department of Electrical Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand ' Department of Electrical Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Abstract: Although there are many 8-bit IP processor cores available, only a few, such as Xilinx PicoBlaze and Lattice Mico8 firm-cores are reliable enough to be used in commercial products. One of the drawbacks is that their codes are confined to vendor-specific primitives. It is inefficient to implement a PicoBlaze processor on non-Xilinx FPGA devices. In this paper we propose a systematic approach that transforms primitive-level designs (firm-cores) to vendor independent designs (soft-cores), while modularising them during the process. This makes modification and implementation of designs on any FPGA devices possible. To demonstrate the idea, our soft-core version of PicoBlaze is implemented on a Lattice iCE40LP1k FPGA device and is shown to be fully compatible with the original PicoBlaze macro. Rigorous verification mechanisms have been employed to ensure the validity of the porting process; therefore, the quality of transformation matches the industry expectation.

Keywords: embedded systems; FPGA; microprocessors; soft-core; firm-core; transformation; HDL; Xilinx PicoBlaze; Lattice; verification.

DOI: 10.1504/IJES.2021.116113

International Journal of Embedded Systems, 2021 Vol.14 No.3, pp.259 - 276

Received: 18 Feb 2020
Accepted: 02 Jun 2020

Published online: 12 Jul 2021 *

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