Survey of Domain-Specific Languages for FPGA Computing

Nachiket Kapre, Samuel Bayliss
School of Computer Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 639798
26th International Conference on Field-Programmable Logic and Applications, 2016


   title={Survey of Domain-Specific Languages for FPGA Computing},

   author={Kapre, Nachiket and Bayliss, Samuel},



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High-performance FPGA programming has typically been the exclusive domain of a small band of specialized hardware developers. They are capable of reasoning about implementation concerns at the register-transfer level (RTL) which is analogous to assembly-level programming in software. Sometimes these developers are required to push further down to manage even lower levels of abstraction closer to physical aspects of the design such as detailed layout to meet critical design constraints. In contrast, software programmers have long since moved away from textual assembly-level programming towards relying on graphical integrated development environments (IDEs), highlevel compilers, smart static analysis tools and runtime systems that optimize, manage and assist the program development tasks. Domain-specific languages (DSLs) can bridge this productivity gap by providing higher levels of abstraction in environments close to the domain of application expert. DSLs carefully limit the set of programming constructs to minimize programmer mistakes while also enabling a rich set of domain-specific optimizations and program transformations. With a large number of DSLs to choose from, an inexperienced FPGA user may be confused about how to select an appropriate one for the intended domain. In this paper, we review a combination of legacy and state-ofthe-art DSLs available for FPGA development and provide a taxonomy and classification to guide selection and correct use of the framework.
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