ALAMO: FPGA acceleration of deep learning algorithms with a modularized RTL compiler

Yufei Ma, Naveen Suda, Yu Cao, Sarma Vrudhula, Jae sun Seo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Deploying Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) on a portable system is still challenging due to the large volume of data, the extensive amount of computation and frequent memory accesses. Although existing high-level synthesis tools (e.g. HLS, OpenCL) for FPGAs dramatically reduce the design time, the resulting implementations are still inefficient with respect to resource allocation for maximizing parallelism and throughput. Manual hardware-level design (i.e., RTL) can improve the efficiency and achieve greater acceleration but that requires an in-depth understanding of both the algorithm structure and the FPGA system architecture. This work presents a scalable solution that achieves the flexibility and reduced design time of high-level synthesis and the near-optimality of an RTL implementation. The proposed solution is a compiler that analyzes the algorithm structure and parameters, and automatically integrates a set of modular and scalable computing primitives to accelerate the operation of various deep learning algorithms on an FPGA. Integrating these modules together for end-to-end CNN implementations, this work quantitatively analyzes the complier's design strategy to optimize the throughput of a given CNN model under the FPGA resource constraints. The proposed RTL compiler, named ALAMO, is demonstrated on Altera Stratix-V GXA7 FPGA for the inference tasks of AlexNet and NiN CNN models, achieving 114.5 GOPS and 117.3 GOPS, respectively. This represents a 1.9X improvement in throughput when compared to the OpenCL-based design. The results illustrate the promise of the automatic compiler solution for modularized and scalable hardware acceleration of deep learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-23
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • Compiler
  • Convolutional neural networks
  • FPGA
  • Hardware acceleration
  • RTL


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