Speeding Up FPGA Placement: Parallel Algorithms and Methods

Matthew An

University of Toronto

Nov 2014

Placement of a large FPGA design now commonly requires several hours, significantly hindering designer productivity. Furthermore, FPGA capacity is growing faster than CPU speed, which will further increase placement time unless new approaches are found. Multi-core processors are now ubiquitous, however, and some recent processors also have hardware support for transactional memory (TM), making parallelism an increasingly attractive approach for speeding up placement. We investigate methods to parallelize the simulated annealing placement algorithm in VPR, which is widely used in FPGA research. We explore both algorithmic changes and the use of different parallel programming paradigms and hardware, including TM, thread-level speculation (TLS) and lock-free techniques. We find that hardware TM enables large speedups (8.1x on average), but compromises "move fairness" and leads to an unacceptable quality loss. TLS scales poorly, with a maximum 2.2x speedup, but preserves quality. A new dependency checking parallel strategy achieves the best balance: the deterministic version achieves 5.9x speedup and no quality loss, while the non-deterministic, lock-free version can scale to a 34x speedup.