Interfaces & Bulk Connections

For more sophisticated modules it is often useful to define and instantiate interface classes while defining the IO for a module. First and foremost, interface classes promote reuse allowing users to capture once and for all common interfaces in a useful form.

Secondly, interfaces allow users to dramatically reduce wiring by supporting bulk connections between producer and consumer modules. Finally, users can make changes in large interfaces in one place reducing the number of updates required when adding or removing pieces of the interface.

Note that Chisel has some built-in standard interface which should be used whenever possible for interoperability (e.g. Decoupled).

Ports: Subclasses & Nesting

As we saw earlier, users can define their own interfaces by defining a class that subclasses Bundle. For example, a user could define a simple link for hand-shaking data as follows:

class SimpleLink extends Bundle {
  val data = Output(UInt(16.W))
  val valid = Output(Bool())

We can then extend SimpleLink by adding parity bits using bundle inheritance:

class PLink extends SimpleLink {
  val parity = Output(UInt(5.W))

In general, users can organize their interfaces into hierarchies using inheritance.

From there we can define a filter interface by nesting two PLinks into a new FilterIO bundle:

class FilterIO extends Bundle {
  val x = Flipped(new PLink)
  val y = new PLink

where flip recursively changes the direction of a bundle, changing input to output and output to input.

We can now define a filter by defining a filter class extending module:

class Filter extends Module {
  val io = IO(new FilterIO)

where the io field contains FilterIO.

Bundle Vectors

Beyond single elements, vectors of elements form richer hierarchical interfaces. For example, in order to create a crossbar with a vector of inputs, producing a vector of outputs, and selected by a UInt input, we utilize the Vec constructor:

import chisel3.util.log2Ceil
class CrossbarIo(n: Int) extends Bundle {
  val in = Vec(n, Flipped(new PLink))
  val sel = Input(UInt(log2Ceil(n).W))
  val out = Vec(n, new PLink)

where Vec takes a size as the first argument and a block returning a port as the second argument.

Bulk Connections

We can now compose two filters into a filter block as follows:

class Block extends Module {
  val io = IO(new FilterIO)
  val f1 = Module(new Filter)
  val f2 = Module(new Filter) <> io.x <> <> io.y

where <> bulk connects interfaces of opposite gender between sibling modules or interfaces of the same gender between parent/child modules.

Bulk connections connect leaf ports of the same name to each other. If the names do not match or are missing, Chisel does not generate a connection.

Caution: bulk connections should only be used with directioned elements (like IOs), and is not magical (e.g. connecting two wires isn’t supported since Chisel can’t necessarily figure out the directions automatically chisel3#603).

The standard ready-valid interface (ReadyValidIO / Decoupled)

Chisel provides a standard interface for ready-valid interfaces. A ready-valid interface consists of a ready signal, a valid signal, and some data stored in bits. The ready bit indicates that a consumer is ready to consume data. The valid bit indicates that a producer has valid data on bits. When both ready and valid are asserted, a data transfer from the producer to the consumer takes place. A convenience method fire is provided that is asserted if both ready and valid are asserted.

Usually, we use the utility function Decoupled() to turn any type into a ready-valid interface rather than directly using ReadyValidIO.

  • Decoupled(...) creates a producer / output ready-valid interface (i.e. bits is an output).
  • Flipped(Decoupled(...)) creates a consumer / input ready-valid interface (i.e. bits is an input).

Take a look at the following example Chisel code to better understand exactly what is generated:

import chisel3._
import chisel3.util.Decoupled

  * Using Decoupled(...) creates a producer interface.
  * i.e. it has bits as an output.
  * This produces the following ports:
  *   input         io_readyValid_ready,
  *   output        io_readyValid_valid,
  *   output [31:0] io_readyValid_bits
class ProducingData extends Module {
  val io = IO(new Bundle {
    val readyValid = Decoupled(UInt(32.W))
  // do something with io.readyValid.ready
  io.readyValid.valid := true.B
  io.readyValid.bits := 5.U

  * Using Flipped(Decoupled(...)) creates a consumer interface.
  * i.e. it has bits as an input.
  * This produces the following ports:
  *   output        io_readyValid_ready,
  *   input         io_readyValid_valid,
  *   input  [31:0] io_readyValid_bits
class ConsumingData extends Module {
  val io = IO(new Bundle {
    val readyValid = Flipped(Decoupled(UInt(32.W)))
  io.readyValid.ready := false.B
  // do something with io.readyValid.valid
  // do something with io.readyValid.bits

DecoupledIO is a ready-valid interface with the convention that there are no guarantees placed on deasserting ready or valid or on the stability of bits. That means ready and valid can also be deasserted without a data transfer.

IrrevocableIO is a ready-valid interface with the convention that the value of bits will not change while valid is asserted and ready is deasserted. Also the consumer shall keep ready asserted after a cycle where ready was high and valid was low. Note that the irrevocable constraint is only a convention and cannot be enforced by the interface. Chisel does not automatically generate checkers or assertions to enforce the irrevocable convention.