[OpenPOWER-HDL-Cores] Libre-SOC OpenPOWER ISA co-simulation test project

lkcl luke.leighton at gmail.com
Fri Apr 23 21:48:20 UTC 2021

The Libre-SOC Project is pleased to announce the first release of an
OpenPOWER ISA co-simulation test suite with its own built-in OpenPOWER ISA


Available also on pypi:

Containing thousands of unit tests for OpenPOWER v3.0 its purpose is to
provide cross-emulator cross-simulator cross-HDL inter-verification, and to
enable and accelerate research and collaboration in OpenPOWER.

Currently included in co-simulation is:

* an internal OpenPOWER simulator written in python (ISACaller)
* a means to fire up qemu bare-metal programs using pygdbmi
* single-stepping followed by extraction of registers and memory
* comparison and reporting on any discrepancies

in this fashion, obscure previously undiscovered bugs in qemu have been
found and reported.

Libre-SOC's HDL (written in nmigen) also runs the exact same unit tests,
comparing through the same single-stepping, against ISACaller.  Having
cross-verified ISACaller against qemu, running the same unit tests against
Libre-SOC HDL ensures that Libre-SOC's hardware implementation behaves the
same (minus the qemu bug).


The project provides a useful bootstrap methodology for testing extensions
of the OpenPOWER ISA: currently, SVP64 (a Cray-style variable-length Vector
Extension to OpenPOWER) is currently being developed in the simulator and
in LibreSOC HDL.

Future plans are to add Microwatt and power-gem5 into the mix, as well as
ssh out to remote POWER9/10 compatible hardware, and also running native
gdb (obviously, only on actual OpenPOWER compatible hardware).  It would
also be nice to receive patches adding IBM's proprietary OpenPOWER emulator
as well.

With power-gem5 having the exact same remote machine-driven gdb interface
as qemu, this one should be easy. Microwatt will require external access
via its DMI interface on a simulator of some kind (verilator, cocotb) in
order to read memory and registers.

The python-based simulator, ineptly named ISACaller, is noteworthy in that
not one single line of hand-generated python simulator code was written,
neither for the OpenPOWER ISA decoding nor for the emulated execution of
actual instructions.

Instead, information was extracted into human-readable machine-readable
CSV, text, and markdown files, and a compiler (language translator)
written. python-ply afficionados will love that the compiler was based on

With the pseudocode and ISA Opcode fields having been extracted from the
OpenPOWER v3.0B ISA Manual, this means that the *actual specification
itself* (having been compiled to python) is what was tested by the several
thousand unit tests.

This gets particularly interesting when researching new extensions to
OpenPOWER, because the very first thing required is to add the opcodes,
fields, forms and pseudocode, for ISACaller to be able to use it.  This
should make adding a proposed extension to the actual ISA considerably

With the v3.0B pseusocode now proven as executable, there is no reason why
in future additional compilers (c, c++) or Formal Correctness Proofs should
not be at least partly auto-generated.  More details here, in the


Also potentially of huge value would be the addition of openocd support via
JTAG / DMI for OpenPOWER, then using JTAG it would be possible not only to
run the exact same unit tests against FPGAs and ASICSs, it would be
possible to run the same unit tests through litex "jtagremote", and against
cocotb as well.  Hints on that, here:



Note that the firmware_upload.py program speaks  the exact same jtagremote
bitbanging protocol that is in upstream litex (and openocd).  A patch is
available to litex which enables it for litex sim:


Libre-SOC therefore cordially invites other parties interested in OpenPOWER
to collaborate in this weird and wonderful cross-hardware-software project,
which throws FPGAs, simulators, emulators, language translators and
hardware into a melting pot and lights the blue touchpaper.

Questions and contributions welcomed at the libre-soc-dev mailing list, and
at #libre-soc on freenode.

This work is sponsored by NLnet under its Privacy and Enhanced Trust
Programme. http://nlnet.nl

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