Relaxing the traditional abstraction of 'near-perfect' accuracy in hardware design can yield significant gains in efficiency, area, and performance. To exploit this opportunity, there is a need for design abstractions and synthesis tools that can systematically incorporate approximation in hardware design. The authors define Axilog, a set of language extensions for Verilog that provides the necessary syntax and semantics for approximate hardware design and reuse. Axilog lets designers safely relax the accuracy requirements in the design while keeping the critical parts strictly precise. Axilog is coupled with a Safety Inference Analysis that automatically infers the safe-to-approximate gates and connections from the annotations. The analysis provides formal guarantees that the safe-to-approximate parts of the design strictly adhere to the designer's intentions. The authors devise two synthesis flows that leverage Axilog's framework for safe approximation; one by relaxing the timing requirements and the other through gate resizing. They evaluate Axilog using a diverse set of benchmarks that gain 1.54× average energy savings and 1.82× average area reduction with 10 percent output quality loss. The results show that the intuitive nature of the language extensions coupled with the automated analysis enables safe approximation of designs even with thousands of lines of code.
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© 2015 IEEE.
- safety inference analysis