6.11. Chipyard Boot Process

This section will describe in detail the process by which a Chipyard-based SoC boots a Linux kernel and the changes you can make to customize this process.

6.11.1. BootROM and RISC-V Frontend Server

The BootROM contains both the first instructions to run when the SoC is powered on as well as the Device Tree Binary (dtb) which details the components of the system. The assembly for the BootROM code is located in generators/testchipip/src/main/resources/testchipip/bootrom/bootrom.S. The BootROM address space starts at 0x10000 (determined by the BootROMParams key in the configuration) and execution starts at address 0x10040 (given by the linker script and reset vector in the BootROMParams), which is marked by the _hang label in the BootROM assembly.

The Chisel generator encodes the assembled instructions into the BootROM hardware at elaboration time, so if you want to change the BootROM code, you will need to run make in the bootrom directory and then regenerate the Verilog. If you don’t want to overwrite the existing bootrom.S, you can also point the generator to a different bootrom image by overriding the BootROMParams key in the configuration.

class WithMyBootROM extends Config((site, here, up) => {
  case BootROMParams =>
    BootROMParams(contentFileName = "/path/to/your/bootrom.img")

The default bootloader simply loops on a wait-for-interrupt (WFI) instruction as the RISC-V frontend-server (FESVR) loads the actual program. FESVR is a program that runs on the host CPU and can read/write arbitrary parts of the target system memory using the Tethered Serial Interface (TSI).

FESVR uses TSI to load a baremetal executable or second-stage bootloader into the SoC memory. In Software RTL Simulation, this will be the binary you pass to the simulator. Once it is finished loading the program, FESVR will write to the software interrupt register for CPU 0, which will bring CPU 0 out of its WFI loop. Once it receives the interrupt, CPU 0 will write to the software interrupt registers for the other CPUs in the system and then jump to the beginning of DRAM to execute the first instruction of the loaded executable. The other CPUs will be woken up by the first CPU and also jump to the beginning of DRAM.

The executable loaded by FESVR should have memory locations designated as tohost and fromhost. FESVR uses these memory locations to communicate with the executable once it is running. The executable uses tohost to send commands to FESVR for things like printing to the console, proxying system calls, and shutting down the SoC. The fromhost register is used to send back responses for tohost commands and for sending console input.

6.11.2. The Berkeley Boot Loader and RISC-V Linux

For baremetal programs, the story ends here. The loaded executable will run in machine mode until it sends a command through the tohost register telling the FESVR to power off the SoC.

However, for booting the Linux Kernel, you will need to use a second-stage bootloader called the Berkeley Boot Loader, or BBL. This program reads the device tree encoded in the boot ROM and transforms it into a format compatible with the Linux kernel. It then sets up virtual memory and the interrupt controller, loads the kernel, which is embedded in the bootloader binary as a payload, and starts executing the kernel in supervisor mode. The bootloader is also responsible for servicing machine-mode traps from the kernel and proxying them over FESVR.

Once BBL jumps into supervisor mode, the Linux kernel takes over and begins its process. It eventually loads the init program and runs it in user mode, thus starting userspace execution.

The easiest way to build a BBL image that boots Linux is to use the FireMarshal tool that lives in the firesim-software repository. Directions on how to use FireMarshal can be found in the FireSim documentation. Using FireMarshal, you can add custom kernel configurations and userspace software to your workload.