Section: Research Program
Reconfigurable Architecture Design
Nowadays, FPGAs are not only suited for application specific algorithms, but also considered as fully-featured computing platforms, thanks to their ability to accelerate massively parallelizable algorithms much faster than their processor counterparts . They can also be reconfigured dynamically. At runtime, partially reconfigurable regions of the logic fabric can be reconfigured to implement a different task, which allows for a better resource usage and adaptation to the environment. Dynamically reconfigurable hardware can also cope with hardware errors by relocating some of its functionalities to another, sane, part of the logic fabric. It could also provide support for a multi-tasked computation flow where hardware tasks are loaded on-demand at runtime. Nevertheless, current design flows of FPGA vendors are still limited by the use of one partial bitstream for each reconfigurable region and for each design. These regions are defined at design time and it is not possible to use only one bitstream for multiple reconfigurable regions nor multiple chips. The multiplicity of such bitstreams leads to a significant increase in memory. Recent research has been conducted in the domain of task relocation on a reconfigurable fabric. All related work has been conducted on architectures from commercial vendors (e.g., Xilinx, Altera) which share the same limitations: the inner details of the bitstream are not publicly known, which limits applicability of the techniques. To circumvent this issue, most dynamic reconfiguration techniques are either generating multiple bitstreams for each location  or implementing an online filter to relocate the tasks . Both of these techniques still suffer from memory footprint and from the online complexity of task relocation.
Increasing the level and grain of reconfiguration is a solution to counterbalance the FPGA penalties. Coarse-grained reconfigurable architectures (CGRA) provide operator-level configurable functional blocks and word-level datapaths , , . Compared to FPGA, they benefit from a massive reduction in configuration memory and configuration delay, as well as for routing and placement complexity. This in turns results in an improvement in the computation volume over energy cost ratio, although with a loss of flexibility compared to bit-level operations. Such constraints have been taken into account in the design of DART, Adres  or polymorphous computing fabrics. These works have led to commercial products such as the PACT/XPP  or Montium from Recore systems, without however a real commercial success yet. Emerging platforms like Xilinx/Zynq or Intel/Altera are about to change the game.
In the context of emerging heterogenous multicore architecture, Cairn advocates for associating general-purpose processors (GPP), flexible network-on-chip and coarse-grain or fine-grain dynamically reconfigurable accelerators. We leverage our skills on microarchitecture, reconfigurable computing, arithmetic, and low-power design, to discover and design such architectures with a focus on: reduced energy per operation; improved application performance through acceleration; hardware flexibility and self-adaptive behavior; tolerance to faults, computing errors, and process variation; protections against side channel attacks; limited silicon area overhead.