Lab 7: Processor Optimization


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Lab 7: Processor Optimization
In this lab, you will improve the performance of the processor you designed in Lab 5. You will implement
the same instruction set and use the same memory interface.
The processor from Lab 5 required many cycles to execute each instruction, so its IPC was less than 1.
Its datapath was underutilized – while an instruction was being executed (for example, two registers are
being added by your ALU), the other parts of the pipeline were laying dormant and not doing anything that
cycle. However, it is possible to utilize more of your datapath every cycle. For example, while an instruction
is being executed, you could be simultaneously fetching the next instruction from memory. This is called
pipelining and it can increase the IPC of your processor.
As an example, Figure 1 shows the cycle-by-cycle execution of instructions in an unpipelined 3-cycle
processor on the left (not necessarily the one from Lab 5), versus a pipelined one on the right, with operations
belonging to the same instruction highlighted using the same colour. The unpipelined processor achieves an
IPC of 0.33 whereas the pipelined one can achieve a steady-state IPC of 1 after an initial start-up period –
a three-fold improvement. This is only the ideal case, and in practice the IPC will be lower for certain types
and sequences of instructions.
# Operations
o_pc_addr=PC PC=PC+4
o_pc_addr=PC PC=PC+4
o_pc_addr=PC PC=PC+4
o_pc_addr=PC PC=PC+4
o_pc_addr=PC PC=PC+4
(execute A)
(execute B)
(execute C)
o_pc_addr = PC
IR = i_pc_rddata
(execute instruction A)
PC = PC + 4
o_pc_addr = PC
IR = i_pc_rddata
(execute instruction B)
PC = PC + 4
# Operations
Figure 1: Example Unpipelined vs. Pipelined Execution
Your goal in this lab will be to pipeline your existing processor from Lab 5. Your modified design will
be simulated in ModelSim using a testbench, running a suite of provided microbenchmark programs that
measure the processor’s IPC in different situations using carefully-selected sequences of instructions. You
must ensure that your design is hardware-synthesizable (see instructions on Using the harness
Project with Quartus below). No hardware will be actually tested on the DE1-SoC board.
In the last, optional part of the lab, you will have a chance to improve your processor’s performance in a
free-form way and compete with your classmates for bonus marks.
ECE342: Computer Hardware Lab 7: Processor Optimization
For this part of the lab, your CPU’s pipeline will have four stages. It takes one clock cycle for an instruction
to move from one stage to the next, and unlike your CPU from Lab 5, multiple stages can be occupied with
instructions simultaneously. Figure 2 gives an overview of the CPU’s pipeline, showing the names of the
stages and the hardware that is accessed (and operations that are performed) during each stage.
mem RF RF
rddata rs1
[rs2] ALU
(ALU result)
1: Fetch 2: RF Read 3: Execute 4: RF Write
Figure 2: Pipelined processor datapath
Here’s a detailed look at what each stage does:
1. Fetch: The PC is used to generate a read request to memory and is incremented by 4 (or overridden
with a branch target address).
2. Regfile Read (Decode): The 32-bit instruction word returning from memory is decoded into its
parts and is used to initiate up to two reads to the register file for register operands rs1 and rs2.
3. Execute: The operations specific to each instruction are performed here (everything except writing
a result to an RF register). Arithmetic instructions calculate their result using the ALU. Branch and
jump instructions may modify the PC. Load and store instructions generate a read or write to memory
(simultaneously and independent of the instruction fetch from memory in Stage 1).
4. Regfile Write (Writeback): If the instruction needs to write to the register file, it does so here. Note
that the register being written to (called rd) can be a completely different one than the rs1 or rs2
being read at this time by a different instruction. This stage exists separately from Execute because
for load instructions, an extra cycle is required to retrieve the data value to write into the RF.
Note that in Figure 2 some components show up twice (the memory and the register file), but are in fact just
the same blocks redrawn twice for clarity, to better show their relationships to their pipeline stages. Other
pipeline registers that you will need (ex. to retain rd until it is needed in stage 4) are not shown. The Fetch
and Execute stages need to be able to operate simultaneously – if a load or store instruction is being executed
in Stage 3, it must still be possible to fetch an instruction (at a different address) in the same clock cycle.
The memory interface to your processor in this lab will be dual-ported. It’s the same memory block, but
allows two simultaneous accesses during the same clock cycle.
Table 1 shows the processor’s signal interface for this lab, which are the same those you used in Lab 5.
Memory Port 1 (‘pc’) is read-only and is used for fetching instructions, and Port 2 (‘ldst’) is used for loads
and stores and can be read and written. The timing for each port’s signals is identical to Lab 5. You can
assume that reads and writes will always be accepted by the memory without stalling, and that read data
always arrives one cycle after the address, read enable and byte enable are provided.
ECE342: Computer Hardware Lab 7: Processor Optimization
Signal Direction Size Description
clk input 1 Clock
reset input 1 Active-high reset
o pc addr output 32 Address (in bytes)
o pc rd output 1 PC Read enable
i pc rddata input 32 PC Read data
o pc byte en output 4 PC Byte enable
o ldst addr output 32 Address (in bytes)
o ldst rd output 1 Load/Store Read enable
i ldst rddata input 32 Load/Store Read data
o ldst wr output 1 Load/Store Write enable
o ldst wrdata output 32 Load/Store Write data
o ldst byte en output 4 Load/Store Byte enable
o tb regs output 32 x 32 Register values
Table 1: Processor signal interface
Part I: Basic Pipelined Processor
The implementation of the processor in this lab is more complicated than in Lab 5. It is similarly divided
into multiple parts that build on each other. Note: you will not submit a version of your processor for each
stage. You will sumbit one version that satisfies all the requirements and optionally a second version for the
bonus (see Part V). In this first part, you will create an initial version of the pipelined processor that can
correctly execute very simple programs consisting of only arithmetic instructions, lui and auipc. You can
first implement this assuming independent instructions that do not read registers recently written to by an
earlier instruction. In Part II you will add bypassing.
Project Setup
Start with your submission for Lab 5. In addition, there is a Quartus project called harness which is used
to make sure that the Verilog/SystemVerilog you write is synthesizable on an FPGA. We discuss using the
harness project further below.
Write a control and datapath module for this new processor, and instantiate/connect them in the top-level
cpu module. Use your Lab 5 code as a reference and starting point, especially the datapath. It might be
helpful to reorganize your datapath by pipeline stage.
You will also need to add registers into your pipeline to ‘remember’ certain information from stage to
stage. For example, Stage 4 still needs to know the register number being written to, and possibly the type of
instruction as well. It must get these from Stage 3, which itself gets a copy from Stage 2 where the instruction
word was actually read from memory.
A ‘valid’ register per-stage1 will allow you to know if a particular stage is actually occupied or not,
enabling/preventing that stage from making changes to registers, flags, or memory. For example, when the
CPU is first reset, no instructions have been fetched yet, and Stages 2/3/4 are empty, and a zeroed valid flag
for, say, Stage 4, will prevent a register file write during that cycle.
The control module for your CPU will require the most extensive re-write. Previously, you used a state
machine, which can only be in one state at a time. This worked fine as a single thread of control for your
multi-cycle CPU. For a pipelined CPU, multiple instructions exist in different phases of their execution
simultaneously in your datapath. You can use multiple state machines, or ideally, abolish the use of state
1You are not required to use a valid register if you choose to implement this some other way.
ECE342: Computer Hardware Lab 7: Processor Optimization
machines altogether and control each pipeline stage independently based solely on the signals produced by
the previous stage.
The testbench does two things: it ensures your processor’s output is correct, and it measures its IPC to
make sure its performance is high enough. When you run the testbench, it will give a Pass or Fail for both
the correctness and performance categories. The goal of Part I is for your processor to be able to pass the
first test only (0 basic) with an IPC of 1.0. This means your processor should complete one instruction
every cycle in the steady state. If functional correctness fails, the testbench will print out the expected vs.
observed values of each register.
At the bottom of in the main initial block, you can comment out the other test cases to
just test 0 basic at first. After it passes, compile the harness Quartus project to verify that the Verilog/SystemVerilog code is hardware-synthesizable and causes no compilation errors or warnings about latches
or combinational loops (see Using the harness Project with Quartus).
Part II: Dependent Instructions
In this part, you will enhance your processor to be able to handle sequences of dependent instructions.
Consider this code:
ori s0, zero, 1
addi s1, s0, 2
sub s2, s0, s1
add s0, s1, s1
The instructions are fetched sequentially and start moving forward in the pipeline. When the ori reaches
Stage 4 (RF Write), the addi is in Stage 3 (Execute) and the sub is in Stage 2 (RF Read). If proper measures
are not taken, this code will not execute correctly, because the addi and sub instructions will use the old
value of s0, which the ori in Stage 4 hasn’t had a chance to commit to the register file yet.
Stages 2 and 3 must be able to use the value of a register (s0 in this case) from Stage 4 before it has
been written to the register file. This value, which is connected to the Register File’s write port, must be
forwarded 2
to Stages 2 and 3. To do this, you need to create hardware that:
1. Recognizes when a register that’s being read as an input in Stage 2, or Stage 3, is simultaneously being
written to in Stage 4
2. Overrides Stage 2 and/or Stage 3’s contents of [rs1] and/or [rs2] with Stage 4’s [rd].
After you add the forwarding logic, you should be able to pass the 1 arithdep test. Again, verify that the
Verilog/SystemVerilog code is hardware-synthesizable.
Part III: Branches
Branches here refer to any of the eight jump or branch instructions that can change the default control flow
of the processor: jal jalr beq bne blt bge bltu bgeu. They pose a challenge for pipelining because it
takes until the Execute stage to determine that an instruction is a branch instruction, whether or not that
branch is taken, and what value the PC should be set to. Until that information is available, the Fetch and
RF Read stages can only guess that the next two instructions are located at PC+4 and PC+8 3
. This leap
of faith is required if you have any hope of reaching an IPC of 1.
2This is sometimes referred to as bypassing. The two terms are equivalant.
3Modern processors use branch prediction to make better guesses. You can assume that instructions are not branches and
fetch from PC+4.
ECE342: Computer Hardware Lab 7: Processor Optimization
For this lab, your Fetch stage can assume that the next PC is PC+4 unless the Execute stage knows for
sure that it needed to be something else. This way, your processor can continue fetching 1 instruction per cycle
and hoping that this assumption is correct. However, if there is a branch instruction in the Execute stage,
and this branch ends up being taken, then that means that the two instructions behind the branch in the
pipeline are not actually the next 2 instructions. In this scenario, you must make sure these two instructions
never make it to the Execute stage. This will create an empty bubble of 2 cycles in your processor until the
correct program flow is re-established.
A branch is considered ‘taken’ if it’s either a jump (jal jalr), or if it’s a conditional branch (beq bne
blt bge bltu bgeu) and the condition is true. This changes the PC to something else than PC+44
. If the
Execute stage contains a taken branch instruction, then at the end of that cycle:
1. The PC will be set to its correct value specified by the branch instruction and will generate a correct
fetch next cycle. That means that the instruction being fetched (address being read from) next cycle
will be the correct instruction to follow the branch.
2. Stage 2 will not be considered occupied/valid.
3. Stage 3 will not be considered occupied/valid.
If you used a ‘valid’ register for each pipeline stage, as suggested in Part I, then steps 2 and 3 should
be straightforward. After modifying your processor to support branches, then you should be able to run
2 branch nottaken and 3 branch taken. Taken branches will degrade the IPC of the processor, and this is
expected. The 3 branch taken test has a minimum expected IPC of 0.33 to reflect this.
Again, verify that the Verilog/SystemVerilog code is hardware-synthesizable.
Part IV: Loads/Stores
Finally, you will add support for load and store instructions. Make sure that you include forwarding logic
for load and stores (and for jumps and branches).
You should now be able to run 4 memdep. Again, verify that the Verilog/SystemVerilog code is hardwaresynthesizable.
Part V: Competition (BONUS)
The bonus is optional. We recommend successfully completing parts I to IV before trying the bonus.
For the bonus, modify the architecture of your pipelined processor to improve its performance even further,
and compete against your classmates. The top 10 performing designs in the class earn bonus marks. We will
evaluate performance using two metrics:
• The average number of instructions per clock cycle (IPC) that the processor can execute
• The processor’s clock frequency (fmax)
To encourage designs that use architectural innovation to increase IPC we will determine your processor’s
performance as
score = fmax · IP C3
The IPC will be calculated as the geometric average over a set of test programs. The set of test programs
will be different from the microbenchmarks in the tester. We will release some, but not all, of these programs
for you to test with. Instructions on determining fmax for your processor using Quartus are further below.
4Don’t worry about the case where the target PC specified by the branch is actually PC+4. Consider this a taken branch,
and make an optimization in Part V if you wish.
ECE342: Computer Hardware Lab 7: Processor Optimization
You are free to modify the processor as you wish, including adding or removing pipeline stages. It must
still correctly execute all the instructions and be able to be compiled in the Quartus harness project. You
can not change the processor’s signal interface. Your bonus design is not required to pass the IPC
performance requirements of benchmarks 0 to 4. For example, a branch predictor might improve
performance on average but degrade performance for one of the benchmarks – this is OK. Here are some
possible things you can do to improve performance:
• Add more pipeline stages.
• Have fewer pipeline stages.
• Look for signals that can be calculated a pipeline stage earlier than they currently are.
• Try to predict the outcome of branches in a smarter way than “assume always not-taken”.
• Find a way to execute more than one instruction simultaneously, for an IPC greater than 1.
• You know what the instruction is by Stage 2 – see if you can do any work there.
• Find the critical path of your circuit as reported by TimeQuest.
Using the harness Project with Quartus
We have provided a Quartus project for you which will allow you to check that your processor is hardwaresynthesizable. Your processor must compile using the harness project. To check if your code is synthesizable:
1. Extract the Quartus project files from cpu and open the project 5
2. Go to Project → Add/Remove Files in Project… and click the ‘…’ icon to browse for files (see figure 3).
Select the file(s) containing your processor implementation. The files should then be listed with the
harness files. Click OK.
Figure 3: Adding files to Quartus project.
5On the U of T Windows machines, opening the project from the W drive works (in my experience). Quartus may have
trouble with finding files in networked storage for some other locations.
ECE342: Computer Hardware Lab 7: Processor Optimization
3. Run Analysis & Synthesis then Fitter (Place & Route).
4. Verify that the compilation was successful, that the code is hardware-synthesizable and causes no
compilation errors or warnings about latches or combinational loops.
Determining Maximum Frequency (fmax)
This section is only required for students trying the bonus.
To obtain your fmax, first compile your processor with the above steps. Then run Timing Analysis. From
the compilation report select Timing Analyzer → Slow 1100mV 85C Model → Fmax Summary.
Improving Maximum Frequency
This section is only required for students trying the bonus.
To improve fmax you must decrease the critical path. The critical path is the path that contains the
longest delay between a pair of registers. We provide here a brief overview of determining what the critical
path is. It is up to you to determine how to decrease it. Usually by reducing the total amount of dependent
logic on the critical path or by breaking up long stages into shorter parts.
1. From the compilation report select Timing Analyzer → Slow 1100mV 85C Model → Timing Closure
Recommendations. This will display pairs source and sink registers which have the longest delay between
them. Note: the names of these registers will be different from, but have some resemblance to, the
names you used in your Verilog/SystemVerilog.
2. Click Report recommendations for this path beside the top entry in the table. Click OK on the pop-up
titled Report Timing Closure Recommendations.
3. Here Quartus is telling you what the longest paths are and the cause. Also check out the other pages
in the Reports section on the left side of Quartus.
4. Click Reports → Timing Closure Recommendations → Detailed Per-Path Results. Click report timing
in the top row of the table and click Report Timing in the pop-up.
5. Under the datapath tab (Data Arrival Path) you can see a list of all the intermediate wires between the
registers. These can help you determine what logic the signal is passing through between the registers.
6. Right click in the Data Arrival Path table and select Locate Path → Locate in Technology Map Viewer.
This will show a pictoral representation of the path.
Netlist Viewer
This section is not required.
You may be interested in how your processor is translated into hardware. To view a schematic of your
design click Tools → Netlist Viewers → RTL Viewer or Technology Map Viewers (Post-Fitting). The first is
more readable but has not been optimized, but the second is a better representation of the actual hardware
that would be implemented.
Testing Your Processor
You must ensure that your design is hardware-synthesizable. Specifically, it must be synthesizable using
the Quartus harness project. See instructions above on Using the harness Project with Quartus.
You can test your processor almost exactly as you tested your processor for lab 5. The testbench (
is almost exactly the same and the programs are the same. Note: the programs for this lab have
ECE342: Computer Hardware Lab 7: Processor Optimization
different performance requirements than lab 5 which turns up in the hex files not being quite
identical (they were compiled using the -L7 flag).
For students attempting the bonus we have released some of the programs that we will use to test your
IPC (7 gemm, 9 dfs, 10 sssp). You can use these to test your processor’s IPC, but for more accurate results
we recommend you also create some more test programs of your own.
To help you move forward in stages this lab is split into 4 parts plus a bonus. These stages are just a
suggestion so feel free to implement in whatever order you prefer.
For the automarker you will submit two files: and The first is your pipelined processor
implementing parts I to IV. The second is optional and is your processor for the bonus submission. If you
choose not to try the bonus, you are not required to submit a file. Submit using the following
command: submitece342s 7
Processor designs must successfully compile in the Quartus harness project to receive full marks. For the
bonus, the 10 students with the highest performance figures will be awarded up to an additional 5% on their
final course grades, depending on the performance of their processor.

Lab 7: Processor Optimization
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