TitleA Fault-aware Toolchain Approach for FPGA Fault Tolerance
Publication TypeJournal Articles
AuthorsA. Gupte, S. Vyas and P. Jones
JournalACM Transactions on Design Automation of Electronic Systems (TODAES)

As the size and density of silicon chips continue to increase, maintaining acceptable manufacturing yields has become increasingly difficult. Recent works suggest that lithography techniques are reaching their limits with respect to enabling high yield fabrication of small-scale devices, thus there is an increasing need for techniques that can tolerate fabrication time defects. One candidate technology to help combat these defects is reconfigurable hardware. The flexible nature of reconfigurable devices, such as Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), makes it possible for them to route around defective areas of a chip after the device has been packaged and deployed into the field.

This work presents a technique that aims to increase the effective yield of FPGA manufacturing by re-claiming a portion of chips that would be ordinarily classified as unusable. In brief, we propose a modification to existing commercial toolchain flows to make them fault aware. A phase is added to identify faults within the chip. The locations of these faults are then used by the toolchain to avoid faults during the placement and routing phase.

Specifically, we have applied our approach to the Xilinx commercial toolchain flow and evaluated its tolerance to both logic and routing resource faults. Our findings show that, at a cost of 5-10% in device frequency performance, the modified toolchain flow can tolerate up to 30% of logic resources being faulty and, depending on the nature of the target application, can tolerate 1-30% of the device's routing resources being faulty. These results provide strong evidence that commercial toolchains not designed for the purpose of tolerating faults can still be greatly leveraged in the presence of faults to place and route circuits in an efficient manner.

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