Riken develops custom processor with Synopsys’ ASIP Designer tool

RIKEN, Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution, successfully developed a new high-performance Application-Specific Instruction-set Processor (ASIP) core for its molecular dynamics simulator. Using Synopsys’ ASIP Designer tool, the RIKEN design team developed its specialized ASIP from concept to gates in less than six months.

by Synopsys

Reduction of calculation time

RIKEN is renowned for high-quality research in a diverse range of scientific disciplines. RIKEN has integrated up to 17 instances of the new ASIP in a multicore chip, that will be at the heart of the next version of its MDGRAPE-4A High-Performance Computing (HPC) system aimed at molecular dynamics simulations. The full system will contain more than 8,000 instances of the new ASIP core, enabling researchers to analyze biomolecular dynamics and functions at a level more realistic than conventional simulations.

“With Synopsys’ reputation as the premier provider of ASIP development tools, we were confident that ASIP Designer would enable us to implement our specialized architecture within our aggressive project schedule,” said Makoto Taiji, team leader of the Biosystems Dynamics Research Center at RIKEN. “ASIP Designer enabled us to tune the instruction-set to run our specific algorithms 30 times faster than existing processors. This significantly reduces the calculation time needed, from a year to just a few weeks, to simulate important biomolecular interactions like the effect of new drugs.”

ASIP Designer enabled us to tune the instruction-set to run our specific algorithms 30 times faster than existing processors.

Compiler-in-the-loop approach

Synopsys’ ASIP Designer tool allows users to specify the desired instruction-set and microarchitecture of a processor at a high-level. Based on this high-level description, ASIP Designer automatically configures a Software Development Kit (SDK) containing a cycle-accurate instruction-set simulator, assembler, linker, debugger and C/C++ compiler. Immediate availability of the SDK allowed RIKEN to compile and run their proprietary C application code to determine performance. This “compiler-in-the-loop” approach was the key enabler to efficiently explore architectural optimizations.

RIKEN started from one of the many example designs that are provided by ASIP Designer. Based on a simple, scalar processor architecture RIKEN made a variety of customizations by adding data-level parallelism (SIMD) and specialized instructions. The specialized instructions provided special bit and arithmetic operations like fixed-point for both scalar and vector execution units, and also included specialized data paths for maximum performance and efficiency. The resulting architecture, while highly specialized to RIKEN’s in-house simulation algorithms, is still fully C-programmable, enabling software developers to easily take advantage of the resulting ASIP’s architectural optimizations. RIKEN also used ASIP Designer’s capability to generate synthesizable RTL of the processor and the accompanying verification support.

The customized design, still fully C-programmable, enables software developers to take advantage of the resulting ASIP’s architectural optimizations.

 Automatic SDK generation capability

“For our molecular dynamics simulator, we needed performance that off-the-shelf processors could not deliver”, added RIKEN’s Makoto Taiji. “The automatic SDK generation capability of Synopsys’ ASIP Designer enabled an iterative design approach that made it possible for us to develop a custom processor for accelerating these simulations in less than six months.”

With the successful conclusion of this project, the RIKEN design team is looking forward to the continued use of ASIP Designer for its next-generation HPC system.

More information about ASIP Designer

More information about RIKEN’s Laboratory for Computational Molecular Design