School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
ECE 5745 Complex Digital ASIC Design
Prof. Christopher Batten
206 Upson Hall • Tuesday and Thursday • 1:25–2:40pm
|Instructor||Prof. Christopher Batten, 323 Rhodes Hall
Office Hours: 323 Rhodes Hall, Wednesday, 4:30–5:30pm
|Admin. Assistant||Jennifer Sandora, 314 Rhodes Hall, firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Lectures||318 Phillips Hall, Tuesday and Thursday, 1:25–2:40pm (until spring break)|
|Section||140 Bard Hall OR 318 Phillips Hall, Friday, 2:30–3:20pm (until spring break)|
Neil H.E. Weste & David M. Harris
"CMOS VLSI Design: A Circuits and Systems Perspective"
4th edition, Addison Wesley, 2010
Available at Cornell bookstore ($183) and Amazon ($158)
or on reserve in Uris Library
The field of computer systems can be visualized as a stack of abstraction and implementation layers with application requirements at the top and technology constraints at the bottom. The intermediate layers include devices, circuits, gate-level design, register-transfer-level (RTL) design, microarchitecture, instruction set architecture, compilers, operating systems, programming languages, and algorithms. Computer engineering is usually focused in the middle of this stack spanning circuits to operating systems.
Currently, the ECE curriculum provides numerous courses at the RTL, microarchitecture, and architecture layers including ECE 4750 Computer Architecture, ECE 5730 Memory Systems, ECE 5770 Resilient Computing, and ECE 5750 Advanced Computer Architecture. ECE 4750 is probably the lowest-level of these courses: students learn the fundamentals of designing processors, memories, and networks, and apply this knowledge through a series of lab assignments. Students gradually design, implement, test, and evaluate a simple multicore system capable of running real parallel applications at the register-transfer level. The lab assignments focus on cycle-level performance (i.e., the impact a technique has on the number of cycles it takes to execute a program). Although ECE 4750 teaches students some basic principles involved in evaluating the cycle time, energy, and area impact of various design decisions, they do not have an opportunity to put this into practice. In addition, the focus of ECE 4750 is firmly on general-purpose subsystems as opposed to application-specific subsystems. At the opposite end of the computer engineering spectrum is ECE 4740 Digital VLSI Design, ECE 5710 Arithmetic Circuits, and ECE 5740 Advanced Digital VLSI. These courses teach students the fundamentals of digital circuit design, but the scope of these courses is on small custom-designed subsystems involving hundreds of transistors.
This course bridges the gap between computer architecture and digital circuits. Students will learn how to take the RTL designs from ECE 4750 and use automated tools to generate realistic layout. The course will enable students to quantitatively evaluate the cycle time, energy, and area impact of the techniques they learned in ECE 4750. ECE 4750 and this course dovetail nicely together creating a year-long digital design experience for students. By the end of this course, students should be able to:
- describe concepts related to the overall ASIC design methodology, CMOS digital circuits, and CAD algorithms and explain how these concepts interact.
- apply this understanding to new ASIC design problems within the context of balancing application requirements against technology constraints; more specifically, quantitatively assess a design's execution time in cycles, cycle time, area, and energy.
- evaluate various design alternatives and make a compelling quantitative and/or qualitative argument for why one design is superior to the other approaches.
- demonstrate the ability to implement and verify designs of varying complexity at the register-transfer level and to push these designs through a commercial ASIC CAD toolflow.
- create new baseline and alternative designs at the register-transfer level, the associated effective testing strategies, and a thorough evaluation plan.
- write comprehensive technical reports that describe designs implemented at the register-transfer level, explain the testing strategy used to verify functionality, and evaluate the designs to determine the superior approach.
This course is targeted towards advanced senior undergraduates, M.Eng. students, and first-year Ph.D. students. ECE 4750 is a firm prerequisite for all undergraduates and M.Eng. students. No exceptions will be made. Students are more likely to be successful in this class if they did well in ECE 4750. Ph.D. students with sufficient background in computer architecture may be exempted from this prerequisite requirement with instructor permission. Since ECE 4750 is a prerequisite, students are expected to be very proficient with Linux and the command line, implementing designs using well-structured synthesizable register-transfer-level models, writing test harnesses, and evaluating designs using simulators. Students are expected to be familiar with all of the ECE 4750 lab assignments.
We will be experimenting with a new hardware modeling framework that uses a combination of Python and Verilog. Students which have never used Python before may want to spend additional time reviewing the textbook titled "Think Python: How to Think Like a Computer Scientist" by A. B. Downey (O'Reilly, 2014).
Note that we will cover enough circuits and CAD in this course such that advanced circuit-level or CAD courses are not prerequisites. However, those students that have taken such courses will be able to see how digital circuits are composed into much larger multi-million transistor designs, and how CAD algorithms can be used in practice.
The required textbook for the course is Neil H.E. Weste and David M. Harris, ``CMOS VLSI Design: A Circuits and Systems Perspective, 4th edition,'' Addison Wesley, 2011. Please use the 4th edition, since there have been significant changes compared to earlier editions. This book is available at the Cornell bookstore and is on reserve in Uris Library. There will be occasional assigned readings from the book, but more importantly this is an excellent book that all serious digital ASIC designers should have on their bookshelf.
Format and Procedures
This course includes a combination of lectures, optional discussion sections, problem sets, laboratory assignments, a midterm, and a five-week design project. The design project includes a preproposal, weekly meetings, milestone documents, demonstration, and final report. Students are expected to work with a partner on the lab assignments, and in groups of two to three students on the design project. Assessment rubrics for the lab assignments and design project will be distributed early in the semester.
- Lectures – Lectures will be from 1:25pm to 2:40pm every Tuesday and Thursday until spring break. There will be no lectures after spring break. Lectures will take place in 206 Upson Hall. We will start promptly at 1:25pm so please arrive on time. Students are expected to attend all lectures, be attentive during lecture, and participate in class discussion. Please turn off all cellular phones during class. Use of cellular phones and laptops during lecture is not allowed (see policy section).
- Discussion Section – There will be a discussion section most Fridays before spring break from 2:30pm to 3:30pm in 140 Bard Hall or 318 Phillips Hall. Attendance at the weekly discussion sections are optional but strongly encouraged. These discussion sections will be relatively informal, with the primary focus being on facilitating student's ability to complete the lab assignments and prepare for the design project.
- Problem Sets – The course will include one (significant) problem set to enable students to apply concepts learned during lecture into practice. The problem set is meant to be completed individually, although students are encouraged to study together and discuss information and concepts covered in lecture with other students (see policy section for collaboration policy). The problem set must be submitted in PDF format via the online CMS assignment submission system (see resources section). You can use any program you want to compose your solutions, but you must convert the final document to PDF. Students are strongly encouraged to type their solutions; if students absolutely must write up their answers by hand, then they must scan their final version into a legible PDF. Illegible scans will not be graded. No other means of submission or electronic format will be accepted.
- Lab Assignments – The course will include two lab assignments that allow students to begin quantitatively evaluating area, cycle time, cycle counts, and energy consumption for various design alternatives. Students must work with a partner (see policy section for collaboration policy). Students will be using the ECE Computing Resources to complete the lab assignments, the lab code must be submitted via GitHub, and the lab report must be submitted in PDF format via the online CMS assignment submission system (see resources section). No other means of submission or electronic format will be accepted.
- Midterm – The course includes an evening midterm that covers all of the lecture material except for the final lecture which is on the same day as the midterm. If students have a scheduling conflict with the midterm, they must let the instructor know as soon as possible, but no later than two weeks before the midterm. Taking the midterm is a requirement for passing the course. Graded exams and the exam solutions are only available for review in 310/314 Rhodes Hall under the supervision of a course instructor. You may not remove your graded exam, nor may you remove the exam solutions from 310/314 Rhodes Hall.
- Design Project Preproposal/Proposal – Students are required to submit a project preproposal and proposal as a PDF online via CMS (see resources section). Students are strongly encouraged to discuss their project ideas with the instructors before the preproposal is due. The preproposal will be reviewed by the course instructors and feedback delivered to the students to factor into their proposal.
- Design Project Meetings – After April 7th, each project group will meet with the course instructors once a week during the regularly scheduled course meeting times. Project meetings will be held in the instructor's office, 323 Rhodes Hall. Students are expected to show up on time and be prepared for the meeting. Students will be asked to demonstrate progress by remotely logging into the course computing resources and running unit tests or small experiments on their design.
- Design Project Milestones – There will be three project milestone documents due after spring break. Each milestone document must be submitted as a PDF online via CMS. Each project milestone document focuses on a portion of the design project final report; so an initial draft of the final report can consist of simply assembling the project milestone documents into a coherent narrative.
- Design Project Demonstration – During the final week of classes, students will schedule time to meet with the instructors and demonstrate their design project. This demonstration is a key part of the project assessment. Students should prepare a step-by-step demonstrate which illustrates the project's code quality, functionality, and illustrates some of the results discussed as part of the project report.
- Design Project Report – The project report is due during the standard final exam time for this course. Students are not allowed to make significant changes to their code after the project demonstration. Instead, students should focus on writing a well-structured report which describes the motivation, baseline design, design alternatives, testing strategy, and evaluation for their design project.
Each part or criteria of every assignment is graded on a four-point scale. A score of 4.25 is an A+, 4 roughly corresponds to an A, 3 roughly corresponds to a B, 2 roughly corresponds to a C, and so on. A score of 4.0 usually indicates that the submitted work demonstrates no misunderstanding (there may be small mistakes, but these mistakes do not indicate a misunderstanding) or there may be a very small misunderstanding that is vastly outweighed by the demonstrated understanding. A score of 3.0 usually indicates that the submitted work demonstrates more understanding than misunderstanding. A score of 2.0 usually indicates that the submitted work demonstrates a balanced amount of understanding vs. misunderstanding. A score of 1.0 usually indicates that the submitted work demonstrates more misunderstanding than understanding. A score of 4.25 is reserved for when the submitted work is perfect with absolutely no mistakes or is exceptional in some other way.Total scores are a weighted average of the scores for each part or criteria. Parts or criteria are usually structured to assess a student's understanding according to four kinds of knowledge: basic recall of previously seen concepts, applying concepts in new situations, qualitatively and quantitatively evaluating design alternatives, and creatively implementing new designs; these are ordered in increasing sophistication and thus increasing weight. In almost all cases, scores are awarded for demonstrating understanding and not for effort. Detailed rubrics for all quizzes, problem sets, and exams are provided once the assignment has been graded to enable students to easily see how the score was awarded. For lab assignments, a detailed Lab Assignment Assessment Rubric is available on the public course webpage. The final grade is calculated using a weighted average of all assignments with the following distribution. Note that the design project as a whole is worth roughly half of the final grade. If you are not willing to put a significant amount of work into this course after spring break, please do not take this course.
|Lab Assignment 1||5%|
|Lab Assignment 2||10%|
|Design Project Milestone 1||5%|
|Design Project Milestone 2||5%|
|Design Project Milestone 3||5%|
|Design Project Demonstration||10%|
|Design Project Report||20%|
Note that to pass the course, a student must at a bare minimum satisfy the following requirements: (1) submit the problem set; (2) submit at least one lab assignment; (3) take the midterm exam; and (4) submit the design project report. If a student does not satisfy these criteria then that student will fail the course regardless of the student's numerical grade. The instructor reserves the right to award a D letter grade for students who barely satisfy this criteria but are clearly making no real effort to engage in the course and their own learning.
This section outlines various policies concerning usage of cellular phones and laptops in lecture, turning in assignments late, regrading assignments, collaboration, copyright, and accommodations for students with disabilities.
Auditor and Listner Policy
Casual listeners that attend lecture but do not enroll as auditors are not allowed; you must enroll officially as an auditor. Auditors are allowed to enroll in the course as long as there is sufficient capacity in the lecture room. Auditors must attend most of the lectures. If you do not plan on attending the lectures, then please do not audit the course. Please note that students are not allowed to audit the course and then take it for credit in a later year unless there is some kind of truly exceptional circumstance.
Course Re-Enrollment Policy
Students are not allowed to enroll for credit for a significant fraction of the course, drop or switch to auditor status, and then re-enroll for credit in a later year. It is not fair for students to have access to assignment solutions and possibly even take the midterm before deciding to drop the course and take it again in a later year; this would essentially enable students to take the course twice to improve their grade.
Cellular Phones and Laptops in Lecture Policy
Students are prohibited from using cellular phones and laptops in lecture unless they receive explicit permission from the instructor. It is not practical to take notes with a laptop for this course. Students will need to write on the handouts, quickly draw pipeline diagrams, and sketch microarchitectural block diagrams during lecture. The distraction caused by a few students using (or misusing) laptops during lecture far outweighs any benefit. Tablets are allowed as long as they are kept flat and used exclusively for note taking. If you feel that you have a strong case for using a laptop during lecture then please speak with the instructor.
Late Assignment Policy
All written documents must be submitted electronically in PDF format via CMS, and code must be submitted electronically via GitHub (as explained in the lab handout). No other formats will be accepted! All assignments must be submitted by 11:59pm on the due date. No extensions will be granted except for a family or medical emergency. We will be using CMS, an automated online assignment submission system. You can continue to resubmit your files as many times as you would like up until the deadline, so please feel free to upload early and often. If you submit an assignment even one minute past the deadline, the system will automatically mark it as late. There is no grace period. There are no slip-days for this course. You may submit your assignment up to two days late, but your score will be deducted one letter grade (i.e., a full point on the 4.25 scale) for each day the assignment is late.
Addition errors in the total score are always applicable for regrades. Regrades concerning the actual solution should be rare and are only permitted when there is a significant error. Please only make regrade requests when the case is strong and a significant number of points are at stake. Regrade requests should be submitted online via a private post on Piazza within one week of when an assignment is returned to the student. You must provide a justification for the regrade request.
The work you submit in this course is expected to be the result of your individual effort only, or in the case of lab assignments and the design project, the result of you and your partner's effort only. Your work should accurately demonstrate your understanding of the material. The use of a computer in no way modifies the standards of academic integrity expected under the University Code.
You are encouraged to study together and to discuss information and concepts covered in lecture with other students. You can give "consulting" help to or receive "consulting" help from other students. Students can also freely discuss basic computing skills or the course infrastructure. However, this permissible cooperation should never involve one student (or lab group) having possession of or observing in detail a copy of all or part of work done by someone else, in the form of an email, an email attachment file, a flash drive, a hard copy, or on a computer screen. Students are not allowed to seek "consulting" help from online forums outside of Cornell University. Students are not allowed to use online solutions (e.g., from Course Hero) from previous offerings of this course. Students are encouraged to seek "consulting" help from their peers and from the course staff via office hours and the online Piazza discussion forums. If a student receives "consulting" help from anyone outside of the course staff, then the student must acknowledge this help on the submitted assignment.
During examinations, you must do your own work. Talking or discussion is not permitted during the examinations, nor may you compare papers, copy from others, or collaborate in any way. Students must not discuss an exam's contents with other students who have not taken the exam. If prior to taking it, you are inadvertently exposed to material in an exam (by whatever means) you must immediately inform the instructor or a TA.
Should a violation of the code of academic integrity occur, then a primary hearing will be held. See https://theuniversityfaculty.cornell.edu/academic-integrity for more information about academic integrity proceedings.
Examples of acceptable collaboration:
- Bob is struggling on a problem set about processor pipelining, so he seeks consulting help from Alice, a fellow student in the course. Alice goes through various examples from the lecture and reading materials to help Bob understand the concepts, and they sketch a few pipeline diagrams related to the problem solution together on a whiteboard. Bob and Alice work independently to flesh out the details of the problem solution and they each write up their work independently. Bob acknowledges the help he received from Alice on his submission.
- Bob and Ben are struggling to complete a lab assignment which requires implementing a direct-mapped cache. They talk with Alice and Amy and learn that both groups are really struggling. So the four students get together for a brainstorming session. They review the lecture and reading materials and then sketch on a whiteboard some ideas on how to implement a direct-mapped cache. They might also sketch out some Verilog code snippets to try and understand the best way to describe some of the hardware. Then each group independently writes the code for the assignment and includes an acknowledgement of the help they received from the other group. At no time do the groups actually share code.
Examples of unacceptable collaboration:
- Bob is struggling on a problem set about processor pipelining, so he seeks "consulting" help from Alice, a fellow student in the course. Alice shows Bob her completed problem set solutions and walks him through the various steps required to solve the problem. Bob takes some notes during their discussion, and then independently writes up his solutions. Bob acknowledges the help he received from Alice on his submission, but it doesn't matter since Alice explicitly shared her solutions with Bob.
- Bob and Ben are struggling to complete a lab assignment which requires implementing a direct-mapped cache. They talk with Alice and Amy and learn that both groups are really struggling. So the four groups get together for a joint coding session. Each student works on one module in the cache, then they combine the modules together to create the final working direct-mapped cache. The four students share and copy each others code often in order to finish the assignment. Each group submits the final code independently. Each group acknowledges the help it received from the other group, but it doesn't matter since they explicitly shared code.
Notice that the key is that students should not share the actual solutions or code with each other. Consulting with your fellow students is fine and is an important part of succeeding in this course. If the vehicle for consulting is a whiteboard (and you avoid writing the actual solution on the whiteboard) then you should be fine.
All course materials produced by the course instructor (including all handouts, tutorials, homeworks, quizzes, exams, videos, scripts, and code) are copyright of the course instructor unless otherwise noted. Download and use of these materials are permitted for individual educational non-commercial purposes only. Redistribution either in part or in whole via both commercial (e.g., Course Hero) or non-commercial (e.g., public website) means requires written permission of the copyright holder.
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
In compliance with the Cornell University policy and equal access laws, the instructor is available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations that may be required for students with disabilities. Requests for academic accommodations are to be made during the first three weeks of the semester, except for unusual circumstances, so arrangements can be made. Students are encouraged to register with Student Disability Services to verify their eligibility for appropriate accommodations.
Online and Computing Resources
We will be making use of a variety of online websites and computing resources.
- Public Course Website –
This is the main public course website which has the course details, updated schedule, lecture slide handouts, tutorials, and lab handouts.
- Piazza Discussion Forums –
We will be using Piazza for all announcements and discussion on course content, lab assignments, and the projects. The course staff is notified whenever anyone posts on the forum and will respond quickly. Using the forum allows other students to contribute to the discussion and to see the answers. Use common sense when posting questions such that you do not reveal solutions. Please prefer posting to Piazza as opposed to directly emailing the course staff unless you need to discuss a personal issue.
- CMS –
We will be using the online CMS assignment submission system for managing all assignments including distributing grades. We will enroll students that sign up for the course in CMS. We will also be posting restricted materials (e.g., problem sets, quizzes, solutions) on the CMS site. We will not be using CMS to post announcements.
- ECE Computing Resources –
The ECE department has a cluster of Linux-based workstations and servers which we will be using for the lab assignments. You can access the ECE computing resources by using the ECE Linux Computing Lab in 314 Phillips Hall, you can use the CIT Windows Computing Lab in 318 Phillips Hall, or you can log into the ecelinux servers remotely from your own personal workstation. You do not need a special account; you will instead simply use your NetID and Cornell password to log into the ECE computing resources.
- GitHub –
We will be using GitHub to distribute lab assignment harnesses and as a mechanism for student collaboration on the lab assignments and design project. Students are expected to become familiar with the git version control system and use it effectively for collaboration.
- TravisCI –
TravisCI is an online continuous integration service that is tightly coupled to GitHub. TravisCI will automatically run all tests for a students' lab assignment every time the students push their code to GitHub. We will be using the results reported by TravisCI to evaluate the code functionality of the lab assignments.