FPGA design: Interfacing over AXI using a simple data bus

June 22, 2018 // By ByteSnap Design
In FPGA design, interfacing over AXI (ARM eXtensible Interface) is an increasingly popular choice due to its status as the most widespread AMBA interface, enabling the connection of potentially hundreds of Masters and Slaves in complex SoCs.

However, it does add in an additional layer to managing IP. Time has to be spent supervising and generating IP outputs before they can be incorporated into the mainline project, and simulating the design can be a challenge. One option that significantly reduces the overhead is to choose Block RAM (BRAM), which helps interface to AXI without the need to handle the AXI bus directly and removes concerns about potential issues that are not related to the function of the IP. However, there are a number of variables to consider both for and against that ByteSnap Design has identified in its new eBook: 

 

Pros

BRAM interface supports AXI burst access which enables high throughput. Direct Memory Access (DMA) engines can be used with little effort, which is especially useful for scatter-gather operations or other relatively slow I/O data transfer operations. A BRAM controller with full AXI can support the CDMA – giving fast data access between the custom peripherals and other memory mapped structures, such as DDR memory.

The Test bench is simplified by a well-defined simple address and data bus model, and because multiple peripherals can be multiplexed together onto one BRAM interface bus. It is possible to run the BRAM interface and the core of the peripheral at different clock speeds by adding synchronisers to registers in the IP.

IP Simulation can be performed in the mainline project using different source directories for each IP, which allows the IP source to be extracted and shared later or even packaged with an IP-XACT layer.

Coding is considerably simplified. The choice of address registers and BRAM areas is placed into the hands of the designer and is easily defined with a case statement. It is easy to change and add more registers, making changes does not require running any other tools, and it is also easy to maintain – it’s all HDL. Just add in a register and synthesize/simulate (provided enough address and data bits already exist).

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