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In digital circuit design, register-transfer level (RTL) is a design abstraction which models a synchronous digital circuit in terms of the flow of digital signals (data) between hardware registers, and the logical operations performed on those signals.
Register-transfer-level abstraction is used in hardware description languages (HDLs) like Verilog and VHDL to create high-level representations of a circuit, from which lower-level representations and ultimately actual wiring can be derived. Design at the RTL level is typical practice in modern digital design.
Unlike in software compiler design when register-transfer level intermediate representation is the lowest level, RTL level is the usual input that circuit designers operate on and there are many more levels than it. In fact, in circuit synthesis, an intermediate language between the input register transfer level representation and the target netlist is sometimes used. Unlike in netlist, constructs such as cells, functions, and multi-bit registers are available.Examples include FIRRTL and RTLIL.
A synchronous circuit consists of two kinds of elements: registers (Sequential logic) and combinational logic. Registers (usually implemented as D flip-flops) synchronize the circuit's operation to the edges of the clock signal, and are the only elements in the circuit that have memory properties. Combinational logic performs all the logical functions in the circuit and it typically consists of logic gates.
For example, a very simple synchronous circuit is shown in the figure. The inverter is connected from the output, Q, of a register to the register's input, D, to create a circuit that changes its state on each rising edge of the clock, clk. In this circuit, the combinational logic consists of the inverter.
When designing digital integrated circuits with a hardware description language, the designs are usually engineered at a higher level of abstraction than transistor level (logic families) or logic gate level. In HDLs the designer declares the registers (which roughly correspond to variables in computer programming languages), and describes the combinational logic by using constructs that are familiar from programming languages such as if-then-else and arithmetic operations. This level is called register-transfer level. The term refers to the fact that RTL focuses on describing the flow of signals between registers.
As an example, the circuit mentioned above can be described in VHDL as follows:
Using an EDA tool for synthesis, this description can usually be directly translated to an equivalent hardware implementation file for an ASIC or an FPGA. The synthesis tool also performs logic optimization.
At the register-transfer level, some types of circuits can be recognized. If there is a cyclic path of logic from a register's output to its input (or from a set of registers outputs to its inputs), the circuit is called a state machine or can be said to be sequential logic. If there are logic paths from a register to another without a cycle, it is called a pipeline.
RTL is used in the logic design phase of the integrated circuit design cycle.
An RTL description is usually converted to a gate-level description of the circuit by a logic synthesis tool. The synthesis results are then used by placement and routing tools to create a physical layout.
Logic simulation tools may use a design's RTL description to verify its correctness.
The most accurate power analysis tools are available for the circuit level but unfortunately, even with switch- rather than device-level modelling, tools at the circuit level have disadvantages like they are either too slow or require too much memory thus inhibiting large chip handling. The majority of these are simulators like SPICE and have been used by the designers for many years as performance analysis tools. Due to these disadvantages, gate-level power estimation tools have begun to gain some acceptance where faster, probabilistic techniques have begun to gain a foothold. But it also has its trade off as speedup is achieved on the cost of accuracy, especially in the presence of correlated signals. Over the years it has been realized that biggest wins in low power design cannot come from circuit- and gate-level optimizations whereas architecture, system, and algorithm optimizations tend to have the largest impact on power consumption. Therefore, there has been a shift in the incline of the tool developers towards high-level analysis and optimization tools for power.
It is well known that more significant power reductions are possible if optimizations are made on levels of abstraction, like the architectural and algorithmic level, which are higher than the circuit or gate levelThis provides the required motivation for the developers to focus on the development of new architectural level power analysis tools. This in no way implies that lower level tools are unimportant. Instead, each layer of tools provides a foundation upon which the next level can be built. The abstractions of the estimation techniques at a lower level can be used on a higher level with slight modifications.
It is a technique based on the concept of gate equivalents. The complexity of a chip architecture can be described approximately in terms of gate equivalents where gate equivalent count specifies the average number of reference gates that are required to implement the particular function. The total power required for the particular function is estimated by multiplying the approximated number of gate equivalents with the average power consumed per gate. The reference gate can be any gate e.g. 2-input NAND gate.
This technique further customizes the power estimation of various functional blocks by having separate power model for logic, memory, and interconnect suggesting a Power Factor Approximation (PFA) method for individually characterizing an entire library of functional blocks such as multipliers, adders, etc. instead of a single gate-equivalent model for “logic” blocks.
The power over the entire chip is approximated by the expression:
Where Ki is PFA proportionality constant that characterizes the ith functional element,Gi is the measure of hardware complexity, and fi denotes the activation frequency.
Gi denoting the hardware complexity of the multiplier is related to the square of the input word length i.e. N2 where N is the word length. The activation frequency is the rate at which multiplies are performed by the algorithm denoted by fmult and the PFA constant, Kmult, is extracted empirically from past multiplier designs and shown to be about 15 fW/bit2-Hz for a 1.2 µm technology at 5V. The resulting power model for the multiplier on the basis of the above assumptions is:
The estimation error (relative to switch-level simulation) for a 16x16 multiplier is experimented and it is observed that when the dynamic range of the inputs doesn’t fully occupy the word length of the multiplier, the UWN model becomes extremely inaccurate.Granted, good designers attempt to maximize word length utilization. Still, errors in the range of 50-100% are not uncommon. The figure clearly suggests a flaw in the UWN model.
Processor design is the design engineering task of creating a processor, a key component of computer hardware. It is a subfield of computer engineering and electronics engineering (fabrication). The design process involves choosing an instruction set and a certain execution paradigm and results in a microarchitecture, which might be described in e.g. VHDL or Verilog. For microprocessor design, this description is then manufactured employing some of the various semiconductor device fabrication processes, resulting in a die which is bonded onto a chip carrier. This chip carrier is then soldered onto, or inserted into a socket on, a printed circuit board (PCB).
In electronics, a logic gate is an idealized or physical device implementing a Boolean function; that is, it performs a logical operation on one or more binary inputs and produces a single binary output. Depending on the context, the term may refer to an ideal logic gate, one that has for instance zero rise time and unlimited fan-out, or it may refer to a non-ideal physical device.
Digital electronics, digital technology or digital (electronic) circuits are electronics that operate on digital signals. In contrast, analog circuits manipulate analog signals whose performance is more subject to manufacturing tolerance, signal attenuation and noise. Digital techniques are helpful because it is much easier to get an electronic device to switch into one of a number of known states than to accurately reproduce a continuous range of values.
In computer engineering, a hardware description language (HDL) is a specialized computer language used to describe the structure and behavior of electronic circuits, and most commonly, digital logic circuits.
A system on chip is an integrated circuit that integrates all components of a computer or other electronic system. These components typically include a central processing unit (CPU), memory, input/output ports and secondary storage – all on a single substrate or microchip, the size of a coin. It may contain digital, analog, mixed-signal, and often radio frequency signal processing functions, depending on the application. As they are integrated on a single substrate, SoCs consume much less power and take up much less area than multi-chip designs with equivalent functionality. Because of this, SoCs are very common in the mobile computing and edge computing markets. Systems-on-chip are typically fabricated using metal–oxide–semiconductor (MOS) technology, and are commonly used in embedded systems and the Internet of Things.
An application-specific integrated circuit is an integrated circuit (IC) chip customized for a particular use, rather than intended for general-purpose use. For example, a chip designed to run in a digital voice recorder or a high-efficiency bitcoin miner is an ASIC. Application-specific standard product (ASSP) chips are intermediate between ASICs and industry standard integrated circuits like the 7400 series or the 4000 series. ASIC chips are typically fabricated using metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) technology, as MOS integrated circuit chips.
In electronics and especially synchronous digital circuits, a clock signal is a particular type of signal that oscillates between a high and a low state and is used like a metronome to coordinate actions of digital circuits.
Electronic design automation (EDA), also referred to as electronic computer-aided design (ECAD), is a category of software tools for designing electronic systems such as integrated circuits and printed circuit boards. The tools work together in a design flow that chip designers use to design and analyze entire semiconductor chips. Since a modern semiconductor chip can have billions of components, EDA tools are essential for their design.
Formal equivalence checking process is a part of electronic design automation (EDA), commonly used during the development of digital integrated circuits, to formally prove that two representations of a circuit design exhibit exactly the same behavior.
In computer engineering, a logic family may refer to one of two related concepts. A logic family of monolithic digital integrated circuit devices is a group of electronic logic gates constructed using one of several different designs, usually with compatible logic levels and power supply characteristics within a family. Many logic families were produced as individual components, each containing one or a few related basic logical functions, which could be used as "building-blocks" to create systems or as so-called "glue" to interconnect more complex integrated circuits. A "logic family" may also refer to a set of techniques used to implement logic within VLSI integrated circuits such as central processors, memories, or other complex functions. Some such logic families use static techniques to minimize design complexity. Other such logic families, such as domino logic, use clocked dynamic techniques to minimize size, power consumption and delay.
In electronics, logic synthesis is a process by which an abstract specification of desired circuit behavior, typically at register transfer level (RTL), is turned into a design implementation in terms of logic gates, typically by a computer program called a synthesis tool. Common examples of this process include synthesis of designs specified in hardware description languages, including VHDL and Verilog. Some synthesis tools generate bitstreams for programmable logic devices such as PALs or FPGAs, while others target the creation of ASICs. Logic synthesis is one aspect of electronic design automation.
In semiconductor design, standard cell methodology is a method of designing application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) with mostly digital-logic features. Standard cell methodology is an example of design abstraction, whereby a low-level very-large-scale integration (VLSI) layout is encapsulated into an abstract logic representation. Cell-based methodology — the general class to which standard cells belong — makes it possible for one designer to focus on the high-level aspect of digital design, while another designer focuses on the implementation (physical) aspect. Along with semiconductor manufacturing advances, standard cell methodology has helped designers scale ASICs from comparatively simple single-function ICs, to complex multi-million gate system-on-a-chip (SoC) devices.
Clock gating is a popular technique used in many synchronous circuits for reducing dynamic power dissipation. Clock gating saves power by adding more logic to a circuit to prune the clock tree. Pruning the clock disables portions of the circuitry so that the flip-flops in them do not have to switch states. Switching states consumes power. When not being switched, the switching power consumption goes to zero, and only leakage currents are incurred.
Integrated circuit design, or IC design, is a subset of electronics engineering, encompassing the particular logic and circuit design techniques required to design integrated circuits, or ICs. ICs consist of miniaturized electronic components built into an electrical network on a monolithic semiconductor substrate by photolithography.
Logic simulation is the use of simulation software to predict the behavior of digital circuits and hardware description languages. Simulation can be performed at varying degrees of physical abstraction, such as at the transistor level, gate level, register-transfer level (RTL), electronic system-level (ESL), or behavioral level.
Power optimization is the use of electronic design automation tools to optimize (reduce) the power consumption of a digital design, such as that of an integrated circuit, while preserving the functionality.
In VLSI semiconductor manufacturing, the process of Design Closure is a part of the development workflow by which an integrated circuit design is modified from its initial description to meet a growing list of design constraints and objectives.
Retiming is the technique of moving the structural location of latches or registers in a digital circuit to improve its performance, area, and/or power characteristics in such a way that preserves its functional behavior at its outputs. Retiming was first described by Charles E. Leiserson and James B. Saxe in 1983.
In integrated circuit design, physical design is a step in the standard design cycle which follows after the circuit design. At this step, circuit representations of the components of the design are converted into geometric representations of shapes which, when manufactured in the corresponding layers of materials, will ensure the required functioning of the components. This geometric representation is called integrated circuit layout. This step is usually split into several sub-steps, which include both design and verification and validation of the layout.
High-level synthesis (HLS), sometimes referred to as C synthesis, electronic system-level (ESL) synthesis, algorithmic synthesis, or behavioral synthesis, is an automated design process that interprets an algorithmic description of a desired behavior and creates digital hardware that implements that behavior. Synthesis begins with a high-level specification of the problem, where behavior is generally decoupled from e.g. clock-level timing. Early HLS explored a variety of input specification languages., although recent research and commercial applications generally accept synthesizable subsets of ANSI C/C++/SystemC/MATLAB. The code is analyzed, architecturally constrained, and scheduled to transcompile into a register-transfer level (RTL) design in a hardware description language (HDL), which is in turn commonly synthesized to the gate level by the use of a logic synthesis tool. The goal of HLS is to let hardware designers efficiently build and verify hardware, by giving them better control over optimization of their design architecture, and through the nature of allowing the designer to describe the design at a higher level of abstraction while the tool does the RTL implementation. Verification of the RTL is an important part of the process.