VRoom! blog - Floating Point 1


We started work on FP quite a while ago - building an FP adder and multiplier, that part of the design had previously passed a few million test vectors but has been sitting on the shelf. What we’re working on now is integrating these blocks along with the missing instructions into a schedulable FP unit, N of which can then be added to a VRoom! - we’re not done yet so this blog post is a write up about how some of this new stuff works - mostly it’s about the register file and instruction scheduling.


We have not spent lot of time building fast (at the gate level) ALUs for VRoom!, at least not yet - we fully expect a serious implementation will have carefully hand built register files, adders, data paths, multipliers, barrel shifters, FPUs, TLBs, caches etc

Instead we’ve made realistic estimates of the number of clocks we think each unit should take to run in a high speed implementation and have built versions that are bit accurate at the ALU block level, but have left the details of their cores to future implementors (along with this code as working DV targets).

In our AWS test system that boots linux we’ve just let vivado do its thing with these models and relaxed the timing targets (with the exception of the caches and register files where we were limited by the SRAM models available and had to do a little bit of special work).

So this FPU implementation will have all the details required to implement the RISC-V FP 32 and 64-bit instruction sets - but low level timing work needs an actual timing and process goal to really start work. So expect verilog ‘*’ and ‘+’ but not wallace trees and adders.

Thinking forwards to physical layout is important when we start to talk about the physical layout of things like ALUs and register files - read onward ….


A quick reminder our integer register file is split into 2 parts:


Commit registers have 3 states:

Instructions that use a “not yet done” registers as a source register cannot be scheduled to an ALU. Instructions who’s operands are “completed” or “committed” can be scheduled - “completed” operands are found in the commit register file, “committed” ones in the architectural register file. The output from each instruction initially goes into the commit register file (ALU write ports only go there), when an instruction is committed (ie it can’t be undone by an interrupt, trap or a mispredicted branch) it is copied into the architectural register file (and the corresponding commitQ entry can be reused).

A note on write ports: by construction no two ALUs write to the same address in the commit registers during the same clock. Equally by filtering no two architectural register file write ports are ever written with the same address in the same clock.

It’s possible to generate a commit transfer that attempts multiple writes to the same location, but the commit logic disables the least recent one(s). Initially we got this logic backwards - it took a surprisingly long time before we found a real-world case where that broke something.

So how do we implement FP registers in this world? there are lots of possible solutions, let’s talk about two of them.

Firstly we should realize that:

The output of most instructions will end up going into the integer register file, the outputs of some FP instructions also end up in the integer register file. The output of most FP instructions end up in the FP register files, as do the results of FP load instructions.

One possible architecture, and the one we’ve chosen to implement for the moment looks like this:


You’ll notice that the FPU and Integer sides share a single commit register file - this works well for units that might otherwise need both FP and integer write ports (loads and the FPU) it has the downside that the number of read and write ports in the commit registers continue to grow.

An alternative design, if we’re being careful about layout and don’t mind spending gates to reduce routing congestion, could split the commit registers into FP and integer register files, each with fewer read and write ports (but at any one time half of the entries not being used) then we could have something like this:


You have to think of this diagram as being vaguely a hint as to layout (FPUs on one side, integer ALUs on the other registers in the middle).

The load/store unit will still need paths to the FPU registers and the FPUs to the integer ones, but in general routing complexity is reduced and the max number of ports per individual register file is lower.

Switching from the current design to this one would be relatively trivial - less than the time one might spend switching to a hand built register file anyway. This is another architectural choice that really needs to be left to those who are actually laying out a real chip, and different people might make different choices.

Scheduling FP Instructions

First of all we don’t treat FP load/store instructions as being part of the FPU units - they are done as part of the load/store unit - mostly they are treated as all other load/stores are (however single loads are nan-boxed rather than sign extended). So we’re not addressing them here.

In our current design most FP instructions run in 1 clock, with some important exceptions

For any one FPU we can issue one instruction per clock - whichever instruction is scheduled gets to use the operand read ports in the next clock - if we ignore div/sqrt for the moment we also need to schedule the write port when the instruction completes.

Unlike the other ALUs the FPU scheduler needs to keep track of which instructions are active and how long they will take - this isn’t hard it’s just a 3-bit vector per FPU saying when the FPU will complete previously scheduled instructions (the LSB of the vector is actually ignored because nothing it can schedule will finish in the next clock - remember the scheduler is always running a clock ahead of the ALUs).

Just like the other ALUs all the commit stations doing FPU ops make a bid for an FPU when the know their operands will be ready in the next clock, unlike normal ALUs they also specify how many clocks their instruction will take - that request is masked with each current FPU state before being presented to the scheduler - a request that can’t run on FPU 0 because of write port contention might be bumped to FPU 1.

We haven’t implemented div/sqrt yet - they’re essentially going to have two requests, one for starting (operand port contention) and one for write back (write port contention), unlike all the other functions an FPU can only perform one div/sqrt at a time, everything else is fully pipelined (we can issue an add or mul on every clock). We’ll talk more about div/sqrt in the next blog post when they’re actually implemented.

Still To Do

We know how handle exceptions, the way RISC-V manages them works very well with our commit model, but there’s still a bunch of work to do there.

We also have a small number of instructions still to implement - basically divide, sqrt and the multiple-add instructions.

Finally we’re using our own testing for the moment, once we’re done with the above we’ll pull in the more public verification tests and run them before we declare we’re finished.

Next time: more FPU stuff