Architecture of ReconOS

“The ReconOS run-time system architecture provides the structural foundation to support the multi-threading programming model and its execution on CPU/FPGA platforms. A typical ReconOS system that is decomposed into application software, OS kernel and hardware architecture. The application’s software threads are usually executed on the main CPU alongside the host OS kernel that encapsulates APIs, libraries, and all programming model objects as well as lower level functions such as memory management and device drivers. The ReconOS run-time environment consists of hardware components that provide interfaces, communication channels, and other functionality such as memory access and address translation to the hardware threads. Additionally, the runtime system comprises software components in the form of libraries and kernel modules that offer an interface to the hardware, the operating system, and the application’s software threads.

A key component for multi-threading across the hardware/software boundary is the delegate thread, which is a light-weight software thread that interfaces between the hardware thread and the operating system. When a hardware thread needs to execute an operating system function, it relays this request through the operating system interface (OSIF) to the delegate thread using platform-specific (but application-independent) communication interfaces. The delegate thread then executes the desired operating system functions on behalf of its associated hardware thread. Hence, from the OS kernel’s point of view, only software threads exist and interact, while the hardware threads are completely hidden behind their respective delegate threads. While the delegate mechanism causes a certain overhead for executing OS calls, the resulting simplicity of switching thread implementations between software and hardware greatly facilitates system generation and design space exploration.

The ReconOS Architecture

The figure above shows an instance of a ReconOS hardware architecture with a CPU, two reconfigurable slots, the memory subsystem and various peripherals. Hardware threads reside in reconfigurable slots, which are predefined areas of reconfigurable logic equipped with the necessary communication interfaces. Besides communicating with the OS kernel on the host CPU, hardware threads can also access the system memory. To that end, a hardware thread uses its memory interface (MEMIF) to connect to the ReconOS memory subsystem. The memory subsystem arbitrates and aligns the hardware threads’ memory requests and can handle single word as well as burst accesses. To support Linux with virtual addressing as host operating system, ReconOS implements a full-featured memory management unit (MMU), including a translation lookaside buffer, that can autonomously translate addresses using the Linux kernel’s page tables.

Hardware threads use FIFOs to communicate with the memory subsystem; one outgoing and one incoming FIFO per hardware thread. Requests for memory transactions are encoded and written to the outgoing FIFO followed by data in the case of a write request. In the case of a read request, data become available on the incoming FIFO upon completion of the memory transfer. Similar to the communication with the OS, we provide a library of VHDL procedures to conveniently handle memory operations. These procedures encode the requests, synchronize with the memory FIFOs, and automatically transfer data from/to local memory elements within the hardware thread.”

ReconOS – an operating system approach for reconfigurable computing