Parsing and analysis of a Xilinx FPGA bitstream for generating new hardware by direct bit manipulation in real-time
Keywords:Bitstream analysis, reconfiguration, parsing, direct bitstream manipulation
AbstractDespite the many advantages run-time reconfiguration of FPGAs brings to the table, its usage is mostly limited to quasi-static applications. This is either due to the throughput of the reconfiguration process, or the time required to create new hardware. In order to optimise the former, the literature proposes a block RAM (BRAM)-based architecture in which a new configuration is stored in localised memory and reconfiguration is facilitated by a controller implemented in the FPGA fabric. The limitation of this architecture is that only a subset of configurations can be stored. When new hardware is required, the slow synthesis process (or a part thereof) has to be repeated for each new configuration. Various third-party tools aim to mitigate this overhead, but since the bitstream is shrouded in obscurity, all rely on a layer of abstraction that make them unusable in real-time. To address this issue, this paper presents a novel method to parse and analyse a Xilinx® FPGA bitstream to extract certain characteristics. It is shown how these characteristics could be used to design and implement a bitstream specialiser, capable of taking a bitstream and modifying the configuration bits of lookup tables in real-time.
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