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Fault Tolerant FPGA Co-processing Toolkit. Douglas Michael DiSabello. Oral defense in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science 2006. Overview. Computation in radiation space environments is slow compared to terrestrial computation

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fault tolerant fpga co processing toolkit

Fault Tolerant FPGA Co-processing Toolkit

Douglas Michael DiSabello

Oral defense in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Science 2006

  • Computation in radiation space environments is slow compared to terrestrial computation
  • FPGAs can fill and exceed this gap for specific applications
  • The Fault Tolerant FPGA Co-processing Toolkit facilitates a general capability of FPGA co-processing capability for space based applications
  • The Space Computation Performance Gap
  • Ionizing Radiation and FPGA Background
  • Development Board
  • Fault Tolerant Co-Processing Toolkit
    • Support System
    • Fault Tolerant Support System
    • End User Environment
the space computation performance gap
The Space Computation Performance Gap
  • Radiation Hardened Microprocessor
    • BAE Systems 133MHz PowerPC
    • Special and proprietary design techniques
  • Laptop running this presentation
    • 1,500 MHz PowerPC
computation gap problems
Computation Gap Problems
  • Bare minimum of computations performed in space
  • Large and slow data transfers to limited number of receiving stations
field programmable gate arrays
Field Programmable Gate Arrays
  • 200 – 1600 fold speed ups
    • Exploits fine grain parallelism of algorithms
  • Speed up computations in space beyond what can even be offered by normal terrestrial computers
  • Fast development cycles
  • In flight reprogramming to adapt to changing mission requirements
fpgas details
FPGAs Details
  • SRAM Based
    • Configuration memory stores and implements design
    • Programmed using JTAG or SelectMap interfaces
  • Configuration Logic Blocks
    • Look Up Tables and supporting logic
  • Input/Output Blocks
    • Used for all general I/O package pins
  • Block RAMs
  • General Routing Matrix
ionizing radiation
Ionizing Radiation
  • Low Earth Orbit contains ionizing particles trapped in the Van Allen Belts
  • Particles cause direct and secondary nuclear reactions in silicon substrate
  • Decreasing feature sizes and shrinking threshold voltages increase probability of these interactions causing errors in circuits
ionizing radiation definitions
Ionizing Radiation Definitions
  • Single Event Transient
    • Temporary change in logic value
  • Single Event Upset
    • SET that is latched into a memory
  • Single Event Functional Interrupt
    • Component stops service
ionizing radiation and fpgas
Ionizing Radiation and FPGAs
  • Architecture
    • SEUs in configuration memory
    • Instantiated design changes
    • Usually results in a SEFI
  • Data
    • SEUs in Flip Flops, Latches, BRAMS, etc…
    • Incorrect computation results and/or SEFIs
  • Off Chip Communication
    • Non-dedicated configurable input/outputs package pins
    • SEUs to input/output blocks can disable a package pin
typical fpga cross section
Typical FPGA Cross Section
  • Configuration Memory accounts for 91% of a typical FPGA cross section
    • 78% - 84.8% Routing Structure
    • 20% Control bits and CLB LUT values

Michael Affrey, Paul Graham, Eric Johnson, Michael Wirthlin, Nathan Rollins, and Carl Carmichael, “Single-Event Upsets in SRAM FPGAs” MAPLD, Sep. 2002

fault mitigation techniques
Fault Mitigation Techniques
  • Scrubbing fixes architectural upsets
    • Continuously rewrite static portions of configuration memory
    • Active partial reconfiguration bitstream
    • SEUs corrected at given reconfiguration rate (shorter than expected upsets rate for given orbit)
fault mitigation techniques13
Fault Mitigation Techniques
  • Triple Modular Redundancy
    • Allows continuous service when architectural upsets occur
    • Majority Voters determine final output
    • Inherent data redundancy
hardware development board
Hardware Development Board
  • Design developed by Naval Post Graduate School
  • Naval Research Laboratory modified with Virtex II FPGA
  • Designed for Configurable Fault Tolerant Computing
hardware development board15


Support FPGA

Co-processing FPGA







Xilinx Virtex


Xilinx Virtex II


General I/O







PC104/ISA Bus


X86 PC

Only off-chip memory

Hardware Development Board
development board radiation testing
Development Board Radiation Testing
  • NPS and NRL conducted tests at the Crocker Nuclear Lab, U.C. Davis
  • Protons were emitted from a cyclotron to interact with the FPGAs
  • Both the Virtex and Virtex II were irradiated
development board radiation testing17
Development Board Radiation Testing
  • Results:
    • 1 upset for every 5 days for the Virtex in orbit
    • Order of magnitude greater for Virtex II in orbit
    • Scrubbing was proven to repair configuration memory upsets
    • TMR was proven to allow continuous service between SEU scrubbing intervals

James C. Coudeyras, “Radiation Testing of The Configurable Fault Tolerant Processor

(CFTP) for Space-Based Applications,” Thesis, United States Naval Post

Graduate School, 2005

the toolkit objective
The Toolkit Objective
  • Build a suite of VHDL designs, C++ software, and tools to give a general FPGA co-processing capability
  • Modular design for easy integration into new hardware platforms and with new HDL modules
  • Allow designers to concentrate mainly on the co-processing algorithm and design instead of Fault Tolerance
how objective was achieved
How Objective was Achieved
  • Create a support system to interface between all components
  • Modify the support system into a Fault Tolerant version
  • Co-processing designer templates and interfaces
support system
Support System
  • Interpret and execute all commands from a host embedded computer
  • Route data between all components on the board
  • Program FPGAs
  • Software for embedded x86 to interact with support system instantiated into an FPGA
support system21
Support System






Virtex II








FLASH Control


PC104/ISA Bus Interfaces

pc104 isa bus interface
PC104 / ISA Bus Interface
  • Responsible for all data transfers on and off the FPGA board
  • Two addresses from the host PC are used:
    • Data address
      • 8 Bit data words
    • Control address
      • A write causes the interface to reset and send a reset to any other modules
      • A read gives the status of the buffer FIFOs
  • Each main support module use a copy of this interface
pc104 isa bus interface23



Write Enable










Bus Control




Read Enable


Data Out

Bus Data


Data In

Bus Data

PC104 / ISA Bus Interface
flash components
Flash Components
  • Interface
    • Translates commands and data into a series of signals to interact with a Flash chip
  • Control
    • Facilitates interaction between the flash interface and the Bus Interface
  • Arbitrator
    • Each module that requires Flash access is given a priority number
    • A modules must relinquish control before another module can be given access
selectmap interfaces

Flash Address



SelectMap Data Out <7:0>

Flash Interface CMD


Flash Data

Chip Select

Flash Data Valid

Flash Interface Busy

Configuration Clock

Flash Control Request

Current Flash Owner

SelectMap Interfaces
  • Control configuration data flow to the FPGAs configuration interfaces
  • Configuration Clock is used to allow non-uniform data loading
  • Actual FPGA configuration commands are contained in the configuration data
  • Two versions: Virtex and Virtex II (and Virtex 4)
selectmap interface commands
SelectMap Interface Commands
  • Load Start Address
  • Load Stop Address
  • Program Using Flash
  • Load Bus Word Number
  • Program Using Bus
  • Scrub using Flash
  • Abort (Virtex version only)
inter fpga communication interface
Inter-FPGA Communication Interface
  • Modified ISA Bus interface for delays between physical FPGA chips
  • Co-processing FPGA has direct access to BUS and own memory space
  • Designed specifically to use resources of support FPGA
x86 host pc programs
x86 Host PC Programs
  • Flash program
  • Flash verify
  • SelectMap Configuration
  • Scrub On and Scrub Off
  • Co-processing echo check program
fault tolerant support system
Fault Tolerant Support System
  • Add fault tolerance to original support system
  • Specialized fault mitigation techniques
  • FPGA configuration, scrubbing, and BitStream manipulation
  • Support System End User Environment
support system main fault tolerance methods
Support System Main Fault Tolerance Methods
  • Triple Modular Redundancy
    • All modules are made in triplicate
    • Majority voter determines correct output
    • Between HDL modules three voters are used to keep redundancy of signal paths
    • Place and Route to keep redundant modules separate
majority voters
Majority Voters
  • Tri-State Buffers
    • Not made from SRAM material
    • Only interconnects are susceptible and correct operation still results
    • Takes multiple SEUs for incorrect function

Carl Carmichael, “Triple Modular Redundancy Design Techniques for Virtex FPGAs,” Xilinx Application Note 197, 2001

fsms and tmr
FSMs and TMR
  • Method keeps FSM synchronized if SEU occurs in state register
  • Outputs are also majority voted


Next State



Current State Register

Next State



Current State Register

Current State Register


Next State


block ram fault mitigation
Block RAM Fault Mitigation
  • TMR
    • Necessary for routing structure
    • Inherent data redundancy
    • Method is fine for short term data storage
    • SEUs are not corrected during long term data storage in individual BRAM
bram tmr w refresh
BRAM TMR w/ Refresh
  • All BRAMs are dual ported
  • Second ports are used to constantly read data values from three copies, vote, and rewrite the values
  • Data write collision avoidance
  • Not needed for support system, but useful for co-processing applications

Carl Carmichael, “Triple Modular Redundancy Design Techniques for Virtex FPGAs,” Xilinx Application Note 197, 2001

specialized techniques
Specialized Techniques
  • Off FPGA transfers
    • TMR of package pins to a single trace
    • TMR of package pins not available on development board

Carl Carmichael, “Triple Modular Redundancy Design Techniques for Virtex FPGAs,” Xilinx Application Note 197, 2001

specialized techniques36
Specialized Techniques
  • Inter-FPGA transfers
    • Not enough pins available to triplicate all signals
    • 8 data bit and 4 redundant bit Hamming code used for data
    • Double Error Detection and Single Error Correction
    • Triplication of all other signals
specialized techniques37
Specialized Techniques
  • PC104 / ISA Bus transfers
    • Updated fault tolerant module allows for extended data transfer sizes
    • All data sent is encoded in (8,4) hamming code
    • No redundancy available for other signals
flash memory data reads
Flash Memory Data Reads
  • CRC values embedded every 512 16-bit flash words by Flash program
  • Fault tolerant Flash interface uses BRAM buffer cache to hold every 512 blocks of data when data is requested
  • If CRC value is incorrect data cache is flushed and the data is read again
configuration and scrubbing
Configuration and Scrubbing
  • Three modes of configuration determined by the bit file created using Xilinx Bitgen tool
    • Initial Configuration
      • Contains startup commands
    • Reconfiguration
      • Contains shutdown and startup commands
      • Doesn’t require a powercycle, but FPGA is taken out of service
    • Active Partial Reconfiguration
      • Used for scrubbing
      • Rewrites static portions of bitstream
      • Removes initial BRAM contents
      • Any portion of design could be masked out
support system end user environment
Support System End User Environment
  • Flash program and verify host programs
    • Store initial co-processing, co-processing scrubbing, and support scrubbing bitstreams at designated flash addresses
  • Scrub On and Off
    • Selectmap interfaces begin scrubbing at given periods using flash data
    • configuration can also still be done across the bus
  • C++ examples programs and headers files for data transfers to the co-processing FPGA
toolkit user environment
Toolkit User Environment
  • Fault Tolerant Support System
    • Controls all data flow
    • Modular design for quick integration to different physical systems with varying number of FPGAs
    • C++ programs and header files
  • Co-Processing Tools
    • Templates for HDL co-processing components
    • HDL “hooks” for data transfers
    • C++ programs and header files
future toolkit additions
Future Toolkit Additions
  • Different bus modules for interaction with radiation hardened microprocessors
  • Co-processing library
  • Use support system on single and multiple FPGA boards