6.14. IOBinders and HarnessBinders

In Chipyard we use special Parameters keys, IOBinders and HarnessBinders to bridge the gap between digital system IOs and TestHarness collateral.

6.14.1. IOBinders

The IOBinder functions are responsible for instantiating IO cells and IOPorts in the ChipTop layer.

IOBinders are typically defined using the OverrideIOBinder or ComposeIOBinder macros. An IOBinder consists of a function matching Systems with a given trait that generates IO ports and IOCells, and returns a list of generated ports and cells.

For example, the WithUARTIOCells IOBinder will, for any System that might have UART ports (HasPeripheryUARTModuleImp, generate ports within the ChipTop (ports) as well as IOCells with the appropriate type and direction (cells2d). This function returns a the list of generated ports, and the list of generated IOCells. The list of generated ports is passed to the HarnessBinders such that they can be connected to TestHarness devices.

class WithUARTIOCells extends OverrideIOBinder({
  (system: HasPeripheryUARTModuleImp) => {
    val (ports: Seq[UARTPortIO], cells2d) = system.uart.zipWithIndex.map({ case (u, i) =>
      val (port, ios) = IOCell.generateIOFromSignal(u, s"uart_${i}", system.p(IOCellKey), abstractResetAsAsync = true)
      (port, ios)
    (ports, cells2d.flatten)

6.14.2. HarnessBinders

The HarnessBinder functions determine what modules to bind to the IOs of a ChipTop in the TestHarness. The HarnessBinder interface is designed to be reused across various simulation/implementation modes, enabling decoupling of the target design from simulation and testing concerns.

  • For SW RTL or GL simulations, the default set of HarnessBinders instantiate software-simulated models of various devices, for example external memory or UART, and connect those models to the IOs of the ChipTop.
  • For FireSim simulations, FireSim-specific HarnessBinders instantiate Bridges, which faciliate cycle-accurate simulation across the simulated chip’s IOs. See the FireSim documentation for more details.
  • In the future, a Chipyard FPGA prototyping flow may use HarnessBinders to connect ChipTop IOs to other devices or IOs in the FPGA harness.

Like IOBinders, HarnessBinders are defined using macros (OverrideHarnessBinder, ComposeHarnessBinder), and match Systems with a given trait. However, HarnessBinders are also passed a reference to the TestHarness (th: HasHarnessSignalReferences) and the list of ports generated by the corresponding IOBinder (ports: Seq[Data]).

For exmaple, the WithUARTAdapter will connect the UART SW display adapter to the ports generated by the WithUARTIOCells described earlier, if those ports are present.

class WithUARTAdapter extends OverrideHarnessBinder({
  (system: HasPeripheryUARTModuleImp, th: HasHarnessSignalReferences, ports: Seq[UARTPortIO]) => {

The IOBinder and HarnessBinder system is designed to enable decoupling of concerns between the target design and the simulation system.

For a given set of chip IOs, there may be not only multiple simulation platforms (“harnesses”, so-to-speak), but also multiple simulation strategies. For example, the choice of whether to connect the backing AXI4 memory port to an accurate DRAM model (SimDRAM) or a simple simulated memory model (SimAXIMem) is isolated in HarnessBinders, and does not affect target RTL generation.

Similarly, for a given simulation platform and strategy, there may be multiple strategies for generating the chip IOs. This target-design configuration is isolated in the IOBinders.