1.3. Configs, Parameters, Mixins, and Everything In Between

A significant portion of generators in the Chipyard framework use the Rocket Chip parameter system. This parameter system enables for the flexible configuration of the SoC without invasive RTL changes. In order to use the parameter system correctly, we will use several terms and conventions:

1.3.1. Parameters

It is important to note that a significant challenge with the Rocket parameter system is being able to identify the correct parameter to use, and the impact that parameter has on the overall system. We are still investigating methods to facilitate parameter exploration and discovery.

1.3.2. Configs

A config is a collection of multiple generator parameters being set to specific values. Configs are additive, can override each other, and can be composed of other configs (sometimes referred to as config fragments). The naming convention for an additive config or config fragment is With<YourConfigName>, while the naming convention for a non-additive config will be <YourConfig>. Configs can take arguments which will in-turn set parameters in the design or reference other parameters in the design (see Parameters).

This example shows a basic config fragment class that takes in zero arguments and instead uses hardcoded values to set the RTL design parameters. In this example, MyAcceleratorConfig is a Scala case class that defines a set of variables that the generator can use when referencing the MyAcceleratorKey in the design.

class WithMyAcceleratorParams extends Config((site, here, up) => {
  case BusWidthBits => 128
  case MyAcceleratorKey =>
      rows = 2,
      rowBits = 64,
      columns = 16,
      hartId = 1,
      someLength = 256)

This next example shows a “higher-level” additive config fragment that uses prior parameters that were set to derive other parameters.

class WithMyMoreComplexAcceleratorConfig extends Config((site, here, up) => {
  case BusWidthBits => 128
  case MyAcceleratorKey =>
      Rows = 2,
      rowBits = site(SystemBusKey).beatBits,
      hartId = up(RocketTilesKey, site).length)

The following example shows a non-additive config that combines or “assembles” the prior two config fragments using ++. The additive config fragments are applied from the right to left in the list (or bottom to top in the example). Thus, the order of the parameters being set will first start with the DefaultExampleConfig, then WithMyAcceleratorParams, then WithMyMoreComplexAcceleratorConfig.

class SomeAdditiveConfig extends Config(
  new WithMyMoreComplexAcceleratorConfig ++
  new WithMyAcceleratorParams ++
  new DefaultExampleConfig

The site, here, and up objects in WithMyMoreComplexAcceleratorConfig are maps from configuration keys to their definitions. The site map gives you the definitions as seen from the root of the configuration hierarchy (in this example, SomeAdditiveConfig). The here map gives the definitions as seen at the current level of the hierarchy (i.e. in WithMyMoreComplexAcceleratorConfig itself). The up map gives the definitions as seen from the next level up from the current (i.e. from WithMyAcceleratorParams).

1.3.3. Cake Pattern / Mixin

A cake pattern or mixin is a Scala programming pattern, which enable “mixing” of multiple traits or interface definitions (sometimes referred to as dependency injection). It is used in the Rocket Chip SoC library and Chipyard framework in merging multiple system components and IO interfaces into a large system component.

This example shows the Chipyard default top that composes multiple traits together into a fully-featured SoC with many optional components.

class DigitalTop(implicit p: Parameters) extends ChipyardSystem
  with testchipip.CanHaveTraceIO // Enables optionally adding trace IO
  with testchipip.CanHaveBackingScratchpad // Enables optionally adding a backing scratchpad
  with testchipip.CanHavePeripheryBlockDevice // Enables optionally adding the block device
  with testchipip.CanHavePeripheryTLSerial // Enables optionally adding the backing memory and serial adapter
  with sifive.blocks.devices.uart.HasPeripheryUART // Enables optionally adding the sifive UART
  with sifive.blocks.devices.gpio.HasPeripheryGPIO // Enables optionally adding the sifive GPIOs
  with sifive.blocks.devices.spi.HasPeripherySPIFlash // Enables optionally adding the sifive SPI flash controller
  with sifive.blocks.devices.spi.HasPeripherySPI // Enables optionally adding the sifive SPI port
  with icenet.CanHavePeripheryIceNIC // Enables optionally adding the IceNIC for FireSim
  with chipyard.example.CanHavePeripheryInitZero // Enables optionally adding the initzero example widget
  with chipyard.example.CanHavePeripheryGCD // Enables optionally adding the GCD example widget
  with chipyard.example.CanHavePeripheryStreamingFIR // Enables optionally adding the DSPTools FIR example widget
  with chipyard.example.CanHavePeripheryStreamingPassthrough // Enables optionally adding the DSPTools streaming-passthrough example widget
  with nvidia.blocks.dla.CanHavePeripheryNVDLA // Enables optionally having an NVDLA
  override lazy val module = new DigitalTopModule(this)

class DigitalTopModule[+L <: DigitalTop](l: L) extends ChipyardSystemModule(l)
  with testchipip.CanHaveTraceIOModuleImp
  with sifive.blocks.devices.uart.HasPeripheryUARTModuleImp
  with sifive.blocks.devices.gpio.HasPeripheryGPIOModuleImp
  with sifive.blocks.devices.spi.HasPeripherySPIFlashModuleImp
  with sifive.blocks.devices.spi.HasPeripherySPIModuleImp
  with chipyard.example.CanHavePeripheryGCDModuleImp
  with freechips.rocketchip.util.DontTouch

There are two “cakes” or mixins here. One for the lazy module (ex. CanHavePeripherySerial) and one for the lazy module implementation (ex. CanHavePeripherySerialModuleImp where Imp refers to implementation). The lazy module defines all the logical connections between generators and exchanges configuration information among them, while the lazy module implementation performs the actual Chisel RTL elaboration.

In the DigitalTop example class, the “outer” DigitalTop instantiates the “inner” DigitalTopModule as a lazy module implementation. This delays immediate elaboration of the module until all logical connections are determined and all configuration information is exchanged. The System outer base class, as well as the CanHavePeriphery<X> outer traits contain code to perform high-level logical connections. For example, the CanHavePeripherySerial outer trait contains code to optionally lazily instantiate the SerialAdapter, and connect the SerialAdapter’s TileLink node to the Front bus.

The ModuleImp classes and traits perform elaboration of real RTL. For example, the CanHavePeripherySerialModuleImp trait optionally physically connects the SerialAdapter module, and instantiates queues.

In the test harness, the SoC is elaborated with val dut = p(BuildTop)(p).

After elaboration, the system submodule of ChipTop will be a DigitalTop module, which contains a SerialAdapter module (among others), if the config specified for that block to be instantiated.

From a high level, classes which extend LazyModule must reference their module implementation through lazy val module, and they may optionally reference other lazy modules (which will elaborate as child modules in the module hierarchy). The “inner” modules contain the implementation for the module, and may instantiate other normal modules OR lazy modules (for nested Diplomacy graphs, for example).

The naming convention for an additive mixin or trait is CanHave<YourMixin>. This is shown in the Top class where things such as CanHavePeripherySerial connect a RTL component to a bus and expose signals to the top-level.

1.3.4. Additional References

Another description of traits/mixins and config fragments is given in Keys, Traits, and Configs. Additionally, a brief explanation of some of these topics (with slightly different naming) is given in the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eko86PGEoDY.


Chipyard uses the name “config fragments” over “config mixins” to avoid confusion between a mixin applying to a config or to the system Top (even though both are technically Scala mixins).