Fei Xie

Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Computer Science


Computer Science

Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 86 pages)


Computer input-output equipment -- Design and construction, Computer engineering -- Research, Electronic digital computers -- Design and construction -- Research, Computers, Pipeline




The rapidly increasing complexities of hardware designs are forcing design methodologies and tools to move to the Electronic System Level (ESL), a higher abstraction level with better productivity than the state-of-the-art Register Transfer Level (RTL). Behavioral synthesis, which automatically synthesizes ESL behavioral specifications to RTL implementations, plays a central role in this transition. However, since behavioral synthesis is a complex and error-prone translation process, the lack of designers' confidence in its correctness becomes a major barrier to its wide adoption. Therefore, techniques for establishing equivalence between an ESL specification and its synthesized RTL implementation are critical to bring behavioral synthesis into practice.

The major research challenge to equivalence checking for behavioral synthesis is the significant semantic gap between ESL and RTL. The semantics of ESL involve untimed, sequential execution; however, the semantics of RTL involve timed, concurrent execution. We propose a sequential equivalence checking (SEC) framework for certifying a behavioral synthesis flow, which exploits information on successive intermediate design representations produced by the synthesis flow to bridge the semantic gap. In particular, the intermediate design representation after scheduling and pipelining transformations permits effective correspondence of internal operations between this design representation and the synthesized RTL implementation, enabling scalable, compositional equivalence checking. Certifications of loop and function pipelining transformations are possible by a combination of theorem proving and SEC through exploiting pipeline generation information from the synthesis flow (e.g., the iteration interval of a generated pipeline). The complexity brought by bubbles in function pipelines is creatively reduced by symbolically encoding all possible bubble insertions in one pipelined design representation. The result of this dissertation is a robust, practical, and scalable framework for certifying RTL designs synthesized from ESL specifications. We have validated the robustness, practicality, and scalability of our approach on industrial-scale ESL designs that result in tens of thousands of lines of RTL implementations.

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