I'm considering buying a new motherboard/processor combo for faster synthesis

Discussion in 'VHDL' started by Randy Thelen, Apr 6, 2004.

  1. Randy Thelen

    Randy Thelen Guest

    I'm considering buying a new motherboard & processor to speed up my
    Xilinx synthesis process.

    My synthesis system is Xilinx Web PACK 6.1i running on Windows XP on a
    machine with a 1.1GHz AthlonXP & 256MB of 266 DDR memory.

    My synthesis times are sluggish. I'm strongly considering upgrading
    to a faster CPU with faster RAM (specifically, the Athlon 64 3000+
    with 400MHz DDR DRAM). I'm curious if you folks have experience with
    upgrading your hardware for the purpose of speeding up synthesis work.
    What processor & motherboard combination worked well for you?

    I'm not interested in a religious war of Intel vs. AMD.

    I'm just curious, in your experience, is the synthesis process made
    faster by:

    1) faster memory
    2) faster CPU
    3) faster frontside bus
    4) more L2 cache

    Yeah, yeah, all of the above. Sure.

    Fundamentally, I'm curious about personal experiences with upgrades.
    For example, if you upgraded your processor and/or motherboard, what
    sort of build speed increase did you get?

    Assume, for the purpose of this exercise, that the system isn't paging
    to disk (if it were, more memory would be the answer to that problem).
    I've used the Performance Monitoring tools to watch paging activity,
    avg. disk queue lengths, and CPU % utilization. Paging is low (except
    as the tools progress from one phase to another). Disk queue lengths
    are low. CPU % utilization is pegged at 100%.

    The sorts of things that can cause CPU utilization include:

    1) The memory takes too long to respond to CPU requests (high memory
    latency)
    2) The CPU takes too long to execute the instruction stream (low
    instruction-per-cycle count)
    3) The front side bus doesn't have the bandwidth to satisfy the
    demands of the CPU (for reading or writing data)
    4) The CPU is thrashing with a small cache, over comitting the front
    side bus/memory subsystem

    I am also quite aware that there are folks with lesser hardware than
    I've described doing amazing things. I understand, and I think that's
    great. Usually I'm of the opinion to buy last year's technology to
    save memory (yes, and I make purchases at the Good Will). However, in
    this particular situation, I'm willing to throw a chunk of dough at
    the problem. This is my personal hobby and I work on my FPGA projects
    at home. My wife and I just had a baby and the little guy demands
    (and gets!) a great deal of time. Therefore, each minute I get with
    the development tools is important. Thus, I want to increase the
    number of builds I get per evening (reduced build times means more
    builds per unit time).

    One last note, if there are other strategies folks have used for
    reducing build times, I'm interested to hear them. Ideally, there's a
    solution that involves no outlay of cash. :) My wife notes that
    many applications are packaged with performance tuning notes.
    Alternatetively, there may be another development package that I
    should be using.
     
    Randy Thelen, Apr 6, 2004
    #1
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  2. On 6 Apr 2004 01:15:41 -0700, (Randy
    Thelen) wrote:

    >I'm just curious, in your experience, is the synthesis process made
    >faster by:
    >
    >1) faster memory
    >2) faster CPU
    >3) faster frontside bus
    >4) more L2 cache
    >
    >Yeah, yeah, all of the above. Sure.


    You forgot
    5) HDL Source code that is easier to synth.

    Instantiation of library (unisim) components may be slightly faster
    than inference. This may slow down your simulations, and may not be
    worth the effort.

    6) Options that reduce the amount of work the synthesiser has to do.

    Try turning on keep_hierarchy, which may stop some cross module
    boundary optimisations.
    Also try compiling your modules separately. (You will need a makefile
    or equivalent to coordinate this.) Then when you make a one line
    change to a module, you don't have to recompile everything.

    7) A better synthesis tool.
    e.g. Synplify.



    Also, read the comp.arch.fpga archives where this sort of thing is
    discussed.

    Regards,
    Allan.
     
    Allan Herriman, Apr 6, 2004
    #2
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  3. Randy Thelen

    Oleg Guest

    Hi,
    I agree with Allan on points that he add execpte on Synplify to be the
    best tool ever because it depends : better for what? i found out that
    Xilinx ISE XST gives better synthesis result and have more control
    options...but thats another discution.

    For your question regarding a PC hardware, i did the same and i am
    realy satisfied of the execussion speed (a significant speed
    improvement). Try a CPU of above 2 Ghz with FSB 800 Mhz, RAM 400 DDR
    of above 512 Mb and a good motherboard that accepte these features and
    you will see the difference. Other thing that we have to keep in mind
    : 1-dont run multiple software at the same time if you are already
    runing for exemple a synthesis of a big design or a long simulation.
    2- When you lunch many applications even if you lunch theme and
    execute them separatly, after some time you PC start slowing
    significantly even if you have a last year technologie, the solution
    to this probleme is to reboot or logout and then login. I dont know
    myself why this is happening and i would like some one to tel me how
    to do it otherwise (no reboot or logutin) because its time consuming
    and harmful for PC???

    Oleg_ca
     
    Oleg, Apr 6, 2004
    #3
  4. Randy Thelen

    Randy Thelen Guest

    (Oleg) wrote in message news:

    > I agree with Allan on points that he add [...]


    Good point. Thanks Allan, for your comments.

    > For your question regarding a PC hardware, i did the same and i am
    > realy satisfied of the execussion speed (a significant speed
    > improvement). Try a CPU of above 2 Ghz with FSB 800 Mhz, RAM 400 DDR
    > of above 512 Mb and a good motherboard that accepte these features and
    > you will see the difference.


    Thanks for these words of encouragement. It turns out I'll get an
    opportunity to try out an AMD64 in the next week. I'll post my
    results including specifics of the machines compared. (I'll also look
    for a fast Pentium 4, too.)

    > Other thing that we have to keep in mind
    > : 1-dont run multiple software at the same time [...]
    > 2- When you lunch many applications even if you lunch theme and
    > execute them separatly, after some time you PC start slowing
    > significantly


    Good point. This can lead to paging. Paging can be the death of a
    system. Windows NT, 2000, and XP are better at this than any of the
    Windows 95, 98 and Millenium variants. But, a system under a great
    deal of load (programs vying for memory in which to run but being
    paged quickly) can bring a system to its knees fast. Or, can cause it
    to appear to halt.

    In most cases the system will ultimately recover. But, in some cases
    "ultimately" may mean more time than remains before the Sun explodes
    :)

    > [...] The solution
    > to this probleme is to reboot or logout and then login. I dont know
    > myself why this is happening and i would like some one to tel me how
    > to do it otherwise (no reboot or logutin) because its time consuming
    > and harmful for PC???


    You are probably causing your system to page excessively. A way to
    verify this is to open up the Performance Monitoring tools and set it
    up. Then, begin your synthesis and open up other apps. If the paging
    numbers start to go up you'll know the source of your pain. Either
    kill the new applications or logout.

    You can get to the performance monitoring tools in Windows XP by going
    to Control Panels, opening up Administrative Tools, and then selecting
    Performance Short Cut. Inside of the performance application you'll
    see 3 numbers: paging, avg. Disk queue length, and % processor. You
    want to see Pages/sec be 0 or near zero. If the number goes up fast,
    stop whatever you're doing. If the number pegs the top of the chart,
    you've got a real problem. The Avg. Disk Queue length is tightly
    coupled with disk operations. The synthesis process doesn't use the
    disk much. Just when reading/writing results from various processes.

    What you really want to see is no paging, little to no disk activity
    and 100% processor.

    And then you want it all to happen in about 3 seconds. ;-)

    Thanks all for the responses. I'll post my results as they come in.

    -- Randy
     
    Randy Thelen, Apr 7, 2004
    #4
  5. (Randy Thelen) writes:

    > (Oleg) wrote in message news:
    >
    > > I agree with Allan on points that he add [...]

    >
    > Good point. Thanks Allan, for your comments.
    >
    > > For your question regarding a PC hardware, i did the same and i am
    > > realy satisfied of the execussion speed (a significant speed
    > > improvement). Try a CPU of above 2 Ghz with FSB 800 Mhz, RAM 400 DDR
    > > of above 512 Mb and a good motherboard that accepte these features and
    > > you will see the difference.

    >
    > Thanks for these words of encouragement. It turns out I'll get an
    > opportunity to try out an AMD64 in the next week. I'll post my
    > results including specifics of the machines compared. (I'll also look
    > for a fast Pentium 4, too.)


    We've tested Opterons at work (I think we actually bought two or three
    systems), and the result was what I would have expected: on the
    execution speed is on-par with high-end Pentium 4 machines, and when
    the memory footprint went past 4GB, the P4's dropped but the Opterons
    kept going.

    The large-memory (8+ GB) Sun and HP boxen we have are no match for the
    Opterons. An LVS/DRC check went from ~210 min runtime to ~90 min when
    going from a 4-CPU Sun box (unknown CPU) to a 2-CPU Opteron. And when
    you start to consider price/performance, there's really no race going
    on.

    Regards,


    Kai
     
    Kai Harrekilde-Petersen, Apr 7, 2004
    #5
  6. Randy Thelen

    john jakson Guest

    (Randy Thelen) wrote in message news:<>...
    > (Oleg) wrote in message news:
    >
    > > I agree with Allan on points that he add [...]

    >
    > Good point. Thanks Allan, for your comments.
    >
    > > For your question regarding a PC hardware, i did the same and i am
    > > realy satisfied of the execussion speed (a significant speed
    > > improvement). Try a CPU of above 2 Ghz with FSB 800 Mhz, RAM 400 DDR
    > > of above 512 Mb and a good motherboard that accepte these features and
    > > you will see the difference.

    >
    > Thanks for these words of encouragement. It turns out I'll get an
    > opportunity to try out an AMD64 in the next week. I'll post my
    > results including specifics of the machines compared. (I'll also look
    > for a fast Pentium 4, too.)
    >


    snipping

    Just a week or 2 ago, a fella from Altera posted (c.a.fpga) quite a
    few tidbits on their synthesis results using AMD64 v others. I am sure
    the results would be similar for XST. Conclusion about 20% better than
    top of line XP, and of course its the memory system thats probably
    responsible for most of that.

    Now due to miscommunication in Taiwan, I could have been the proud
    owner of a Shuttle box with AMD64 for about $300 when the list was
    $800. Seemed too good to be true but the poor kid selling me had no
    idea how valuable the cpu chip was, he thought it was just another XP
    variant.

    I am curios how the laptop version of AMD64 will perform, I know its a
    lower model, ISTR it has less memory capability. I saw the Emachine
    laptop in BestBuy the other day.

    regards

    johnjakson_usa_com
     
    john jakson, Apr 8, 2004
    #6
  7. Randy Thelen

    john jakson Guest

    (Randy Thelen) wrote in message news:<>...
    > I'm considering buying a new motherboard & processor to speed up my
    > Xilinx synthesis process.
    >
    > My synthesis system is Xilinx Web PACK 6.1i running on Windows XP on a
    > machine with a 1.1GHz AthlonXP & 256MB of 266 DDR memory.
    >
    > My synthesis times are sluggish. I'm strongly considering upgrading
    > to a faster CPU with faster RAM (specifically, the Athlon 64 3000+
    > with 400MHz DDR DRAM). I'm curious if you folks have experience with
    > upgrading your hardware for the purpose of speeding up synthesis work.
    > What processor & motherboard combination worked well for you?
    >


    What does sluggish mean and how big is your project.

    I am working on a cpu that maybe fills a sp3-50 and its getting slower
    but redoing everything upto PR only takes 3mins IIRC, it started off
    at 30s for trivial stuff. Turns out most of the time is in simulation
    for which I use VC6 for the C model so I wouldn't get much benefit
    from faster cpu. When the C RTL model passes, I go back and repair the
    Verilog to see if its same speed.

    I agree about buying 6mnth-1yr old level HW and almost getting it for
    free. I have an XP2400 (2GHz) that can be had for $100 including
    (nothin special Shuttle) mobo from Microcenter. If I had the AMD64,
    that would cost me closer to $1k for a basic barebones box. Generally
    if I want the fastest cpu, I get someone else to pay for it :)

    I also get my DDRAM at 50% off by buying with rebates when they come
    out on the 3 big hols (USA ofcourse) so 1G cost me about $120. I see
    you have 256M, I would double that just to start. My XST runs only use
    60M or so but you might be reaching mem limit already.


    regards

    johnjakson_usa_com
     
    john jakson, Apr 8, 2004
    #7
  8. Randy Thelen

    Joe Guest

    Re: I'm considering buying a new motherboard/processor combo forfaster synthesis

    Randy Thelen wrote:

    > I'm considering buying a new motherboard & processor to speed up my
    > Xilinx synthesis process.
    >
    > My synthesis system is Xilinx Web PACK 6.1i running on Windows XP on a
    > machine with a 1.1GHz AthlonXP & 256MB of 266 DDR memory.
    >
    > My synthesis times are sluggish. I'm strongly considering upgrading
    > to a faster CPU with faster RAM (specifically, the Athlon 64 3000+
    > with 400MHz DDR DRAM). I'm curious if you folks have experience with
    > upgrading your hardware for the purpose of speeding up synthesis work.
    > What processor & motherboard combination worked well for you?
    >
    > I'm not interested in a religious war of Intel vs. AMD.
    >
    > I'm just curious, in your experience, is the synthesis process made
    > faster by:
    >
    > 1) faster memory
    > 2) faster CPU
    > 3) faster frontside bus
    > 4) more L2 cache
    >
    > Yeah, yeah, all of the above. Sure.
    >...

    Hi,

    Depends on the size of your design, and your budget, you might need to
    consider getting more memory instead of a fastest CPU. I guess 1Gb RAM
    should be enough for most FPGA design unless you are working with
    XCV6000 FPGA? ;-)

    Joe
     
    Joe, Apr 9, 2004
    #8
  9. Kai Harrekilde-Petersen <> wrote in message news:<>...

    > The large-memory (8+ GB) Sun and HP boxen we have are no match for the
    > Opterons. An LVS/DRC check went from ~210 min runtime to ~90 min when
    > going from a 4-CPU Sun box (unknown CPU) to a 2-CPU Opteron. And when
    > you start to consider price/performance, there's really no race going
    > on.


    I built a 2-way Opteron box the other week for development use and
    haven't had any complaints except for having to go through the hoops
    of installing a 2.6 Linux kernel in order to enable the 2nd processor.
    The current version of FreeBSD works fine also; the pre-version of
    Windows Server 2003 doesn't recognize the 2nd processor. (I only
    installed it just to see if it actually worked then blanked the drive
    with Linux.)

    Taking price/performance into account, it's very hard to beat. It'll
    be interesting to see how Intel does compete.

    -t
     
    Anthony J Bybell, Apr 15, 2004
    #9
  10. Re: I'm considering buying a new motherboard/processor combo forfaster synthesis

    Diverging way off topic...

    Anthony J Bybell wrote:

    > I built a 2-way Opteron box the other week for development use and
    > haven't had any complaints except for having to go through the hoops
    > of installing a 2.6 Linux kernel in order to enable the 2nd processor.
    > The current version of FreeBSD works fine also; the pre-version of
    > Windows Server 2003 doesn't recognize the 2nd processor. (I only
    > installed it just to see if it actually worked then blanked the drive
    > with Linux.)


    I'm running with a 2.4 kernel on my dual opteron just fine. It
    was shipped with SuSE SLES8 preinstalled and multiprocessing
    just fine thankyouverymuch:)

    Oh, and our sense is that with Xilinx xst, we would not dare
    give up our Opterons!
    --
    Steve Williams "The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
    steve at icarus.com But I have promises to keep,
    http://www.icarus.com and lines to code before I sleep,
    http://www.picturel.com And lines to code before I sleep."
     
    Stephen Williams, Apr 17, 2004
    #10
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