Transcending Static Deployment of Circuits: Dynamic Run-Time Systems and Mobile Hardware Processes for FPGAs.
PhD thesis, Computing Laboratory.
The usefulness of reconfigurable hardware has been shown in research and commercial applications. Unquestionably, this has and will lead to, unique avenues of thought within computer science being explored. The interest by researchers in some specific areas has led to manufacturers developing devices which were enhanced in their ability to dynamically be configured within a run-time context. These improvements are on-going and rapid progress is being made, producing high density, system-on-a-chip capable devices, with fast run-time reconfiguration. The advancements in this technology have particularly led to a convergence between software and hardware domains, in the sense that algorithms can be implemented in either; the choice being dependent only in terms of efficiency within the medium itself. Older methods for development with these devices have become rapidly dated and inflexible. Very few suitable tools exist, for example, which are capable of fully utilising the inherent capabilities of such hardware. The approach taken here allows the division between hardware and software to be diminished. Component designs, which may be hardware description language (HDL) based or synthesised algorithms, become easily manipulated and interacted with through a run-time engine, that can deploy elements at will to local or distributed devices. Such entities are essentially hybrid in nature, possessing both hardware and software functionality. These processes are sufficiently self-supporting, to be capable of being used outside of the run-time system within a normal Java development environment. This work explores how hardware entities can become as dynamic as memory based algorithms within conventional von Neumann based systems, providing the means for extending the software programming paradigm into such areas. It analyses the possibilities of applying object-oriented and occam/Communicating Sequential Processes (CSP) based concurrency philosophies to these highly mobile, hardware processes.
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