AXI-REALM: A Lightweight and Modular Interconnect Extension for Traffic Regulation and Monitoring of Heterogeneous Real-Time SoCs

16 Nov 2023  ·  Thomas Benz, Alessandro Ottaviano, Robert Balas, Angelo Garofalo, Francesco Restuccia, Alessandro Biondi, Luca Benini ·

The increasing demand for heterogeneous functionality in the automotive industry and the evolution of chip manufacturing processes have led to the transition from federated to integrated critical real-time embedded systems (CRTESs). This leads to higher integration challenges of conventional timing predictability techniques due to access contention on shared resources, which can be resolved by providing system-level observability and controllability in hardware. We focus on the interconnect as a shared resource and propose AXI-REALM, a lightweight, modular, and technology-independent real-time extension to industry-standard AXI4 interconnects, available open-source. AXI-REALM uses a credit-based mechanism to distribute and control the bandwidth in a multi-subordinate system on periodic time windows, proactively prevents denial of service from malicious actors in the system, and tracks each manager's access and interference statistics for optimal budget and period selection. We provide detailed performance and implementation cost assessment in a 12nm node and an end-to-end functional case study implementing AXI-REALM into an open-source Linux-capable RISC-V SoC. In a system with a general-purpose core and a hardware accelerator's DMA engine causing interference on the interconnect, AXI-REALM achieves fair bandwidth distribution among managers, allowing the core to recover 68.2 % of its performance compared to the case without contention. Moreover, near-ideal performance (above 95 %) can be achieved by distributing the available bandwidth in favor of the core, improving the worst-case memory access latency from 264 to below eight cycles. Our approach minimizes buffering compared to other solutions and introduces only 2.45 % area overhead compared to the original SoC.

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