Open-source software has been a critical enabler for tremendous innovation in the software ecosystem over the past two decades. Inspired by this success, open-source hardware involves making the high-level description of hardware components freely available for others to study, change, distribute, and ultimately use in fabricating their own hardware components. Unfortunately, open-source hardware has had a relatively bleak history and has yet to offer the same kind of transformative impact in the hardware ecosystem. At the same time, emerging applications in visual computing, data science, and machine learning are demanding more performance with less resources motivating an increasing need for accelerator-centric system-on-chip (SoC) design. We need hardware startups to drive the next phase of software/hardware innovation, and hardware startups need open-source hardware.
In this talk, I will briefly discuss some recent trends in open-source electronic design automation, instruction set design, and component development that suggest we may be entering a new era of open-source SoC design. I will then describe two projects in my own research group that concretely illustrate these trends. In the first part of the talk, I will discuss PyMTL, a new framework which leverages Python to create a domain-specific embedded language for hardware modeling, generation, simulation, and verification. PyMTL has the potential to improve the productivity and quality of open-source hardware design. In the second part of this talk, I will discuss the Celerity SoC, a 5x5mm 385M-transistor chip in TSMC 16nm designed and implemented by a team of students and faculty from UC San Diego, University of Michigan, and Cornell as part of the DARPA CRAFT program. The chip went from PDK access to tapeout in just nine months largely owing to extensive use of open-source hardware. My talk concludes with a call-to-action for the academic community to make open-source hardware a centerpiece of their activities. Academics have a practical and ethical motivation for using, developing, and promoting open-source electronic design automation tools and open source hardware designs. We should be leaders in this new era of open-source system-on-chip design.
Christopher Batten is an Associate Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University, where he leads a research group working at the intersection of computer architecture, electronic design automation, and VLSI design. In 2018, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, UK and a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall also in Cambridge, UK. His work has been recognized with several awards including a Cornell Engineering Research Excellence Award, an AFOSR Young Investigator Program award, an Intel Early Career Faculty Honor Program award, an NSF CAREER award, a DARPA Young Faculty Award, and an IEEE Micro Top Picks selection. His teaching has been recognized with the Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Excellence in Teaching and two Michael Tien '72 Excellence in Teaching Awards. Prior to his appointment at Cornell, Batten received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010. He received an M.Phil. in Engineering as a Churchill Scholar at the University of Cambridge in 2000, and received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering as a Jefferson Scholar at the University of Virginia in 1999.
Hardware Systems Collective Seminar: https://hsc.ucsc.edu/seminar/ <https://hsc.ucsc.edu/seminar/