Memory handling

The memory command

In the RTL netlist, memory reads and writes are individual cells. This makes consolidating the number of ports for a memory easier. The memory pass transforms memories to an implementation. Per default that is logic for address decoders and registers. It also is a macro command that calls the other common memory_* passes in a sensible order:

Listing 33 Passes called by memory
opt_mem
opt_mem_priority
opt_mem_feedback
memory_bmux2rom
memory_dff
opt_clean
memory_share
opt_mem_widen
memory_memx                         (when called with -memx)
opt_clean
memory_collect
memory_bram -rules <bram_rules>     (when called with -bram)
memory_map                          (skipped if called with -nomap)

Some quick notes:

  • memory_dff merges registers into the memory read- and write cells.

  • memory_collect collects all read and write cells for a memory and transforms them into one multi-port memory cell.

  • memory_map takes the multi-port memory cell and transforms it to address decoder logic and registers.

For more information about memory, such as disabling certain sub commands, see memory - translate memories to basic cells.

Example

docs/source/code_examples/synth_flow.

../../_images/memory_01.svg
Listing 34 memory_01.ys
read_verilog memory_01.v
hierarchy -check -top test
proc;; memory; opt
Listing 35 memory_01.v
module test(input      CLK, ADDR,
            input      [7:0] DIN,
	    output reg [7:0] DOUT);
    reg [7:0] mem [0:1];
    always @(posedge CLK) begin
        mem[ADDR] <= DIN;
	DOUT <= mem[ADDR];
    end
endmodule
../../_images/memory_02.svg
Listing 36 memory_02.v
module test(
    input             WR1_CLK,  WR2_CLK,
    input             WR1_WEN,  WR2_WEN,
    input      [7:0]  WR1_ADDR, WR2_ADDR,
    input      [7:0]  WR1_DATA, WR2_DATA,
    input             RD1_CLK,  RD2_CLK,
    input      [7:0]  RD1_ADDR, RD2_ADDR,
    output reg [7:0]  RD1_DATA, RD2_DATA
);

reg [7:0] memory [0:255];

always @(posedge WR1_CLK)
    if (WR1_WEN)
        memory[WR1_ADDR] <= WR1_DATA;

always @(posedge WR2_CLK)
    if (WR2_WEN)
        memory[WR2_ADDR] <= WR2_DATA;

always @(posedge RD1_CLK)
    RD1_DATA <= memory[RD1_ADDR];

always @(posedge RD2_CLK)
    RD2_DATA <= memory[RD2_ADDR];

endmodule
Listing 37 memory_02.ys
read_verilog memory_02.v
hierarchy -check -top test
proc;; memory -nomap
opt -mux_undef -mux_bool

Memory mapping

Usually it is preferred to use architecture-specific RAM resources for memory. For example:

memory -nomap
memory_libmap -lib my_memory_map.txt
techmap -map my_memory_map.v
memory_map

memory_libmap attempts to convert memory cells ($mem_v2 etc) into hardware supported memory using a provided library (my_memory_map.txt in the example above). Where necessary, emulation logic is added to ensure functional equivalence before and after this conversion. techmap -map my_memory_map.v then uses techmap to map to hardware primitives. Any leftover memory cells unable to be converted are then picked up by memory_map and mapped to DFFs and address decoders.

Note

More information about what mapping options are available and associated costs of each can be found by enabling debug outputs. This can be done with the debug command, or by using the -g flag when calling Yosys to globally enable debug messages.

For more on the lib format for memory_libmap, see passes/memory/memlib.md

Supported memory patterns

Note that not all supported patterns are included in this document, of particular note is that combinations of multiple patterns should generally work. For example, wbe could be used in conjunction with any of the simple dual port (SDP) models. In general if a hardware memory definition does not support a given configuration, additional logic will be instantiated to guarantee behaviour is consistent with simulation.

Notes

Memory kind selection

The memory inference code will automatically pick target memory primitive based on memory geometry and features used. Depending on the target, there can be up to four memory primitive classes available for selection:

  • FF RAM (aka logic): no hardware primitive used, memory lowered to a bunch of FFs and multiplexers

    • Can handle arbitrary number of write ports, as long as all write ports are in the same clock domain

    • Can handle arbitrary number and kind of read ports

  • LUT RAM (aka distributed RAM): uses LUT storage as RAM

    • Supported on most FPGAs (with notable exception of ice40)

    • Usually has one synchronous write port, one or more asynchronous read ports

    • Small

    • Will never be used for ROMs (lowering to plain LUTs is always better)

  • Block RAM: dedicated memory tiles

    • Supported on basically all FPGAs

    • Supports only synchronous reads

    • Two ports with separate clocks

    • Usually supports true dual port (with notable exception of ice40 that only supports SDP)

    • Usually supports asymmetric memories and per-byte write enables

    • Several kilobits in size

  • Huge RAM:

    • Only supported on several targets:

      • Some Xilinx UltraScale devices (UltraRAM)

        • Two ports, both with mutually exclusive synchronous read and write

        • Single clock

        • Initial data must be all-0

      • Some ice40 devices (SPRAM)

        • Single port with mutually exclusive synchronous read and write

        • Does not support initial data

      • Nexus (large RAM)

        • Two ports, both with mutually exclusive synchronous read and write

        • Single clock

    • Will not be automatically selected by memory inference code, needs explicit opt-in via ram_style attribute

In general, you can expect the automatic selection process to work roughly like this:

  • If any read port is asynchronous, only LUT RAM (or FF RAM) can be used.

  • If there is more than one write port, only block RAM can be used, and this needs to be a hardware-supported true dual port pattern

    • … unless all write ports are in the same clock domain, in which case FF RAM can also be used, but this is generally not what you want for anything but really small memories

  • Otherwise, either FF RAM, LUT RAM, or block RAM will be used, depending on memory size

This process can be overridden by attaching a ram_style attribute to the memory:

  • (* ram_style = “logic” *) selects FF RAM

  • (* ram_style = “distributed” *) selects LUT RAM

  • (* ram_style = “block” *) selects block RAM

  • (* ram_style = “huge” *) selects huge RAM

It is an error if this override cannot be realized for the given target.

Many alternate spellings of the attribute are also accepted, for compatibility with other software.

Initial data

Most FPGA targets support initializing all kinds of memory to user-provided values. If explicit initialization is not used the initial memory value is undefined. Initial data can be provided by either initial statements writing memory cells one by one of $readmemh or $readmemb system tasks. For an example pattern, see sr_init.

Write port with byte enables

  • Byte enables can be used with any supported pattern

  • To ensure that multiple writes will be merged into one port, they need to have disjoint bit ranges, have the same address, and the same clock

  • Any write enable granularity will be accepted (down to per-bit write enables), but using smaller granularity than natively supported by the target is very likely to be inefficient (eg. using 4-bit bytes on ECP5 will result in either padding the bytes with 5 dummy bits to native 9-bit units or splitting the RAM into two block RAMs)

reg [31 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable[0])
                mem[write_addr][7:0] <= write_data[7:0];
        if (write_enable[1])
                mem[write_addr][15:8] <= write_data[15:8];
        if (write_enable[2])
                mem[write_addr][23:16] <= write_data[23:16];
        if (write_enable[3])
                mem[write_addr][31:24] <= write_data[31:24];
        if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

Simple dual port (SDP) memory patterns

Asynchronous-read SDP

  • This will result in LUT RAM on supported targets

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];
always @(posedge clk)
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;
assign read_data = mem[read_addr];

Synchronous SDP with clock domain crossing

  • Will result in block RAM or LUT RAM depending on size

  • No behavior guarantees in case of simultaneous read and write to the same address

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge write_clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;
end

always @(posedge read_clk) begin
        if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

Synchronous SDP read first

  • The read and write parts can be in the same or different processes.

  • Will result in block RAM or LUT RAM depending on size

  • As long as the same clock is used for both, yosys will ensure read-first behavior. This may require extra circuitry on some targets for block RAM. If this is not necessary, use one of the patterns below.

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;
        if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

Synchronous SDP with undefined collision behavior

  • Like above, but the read value is undefined when read and write ports target the same address in the same cycle

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;

        if (read_enable) begin
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];

        if (write_enable && read_addr == write_addr)
                // this if block
                read_data <= 'x;
        end
end
  • Or below, using the no_rw_check attribute

(* no_rw_check *)
reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;

        if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

Synchronous SDP with write-first behavior

  • Will result in block RAM or LUT RAM depending on size

  • May use additional circuitry for block RAM if write-first is not natively supported. Will always use additional circuitry for LUT RAM.

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;

        if (read_enable) begin
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
                if (write_enable && read_addr == write_addr)
                        read_data <= write_data;
        end
end

Synchronous SDP with write-first behavior (alternate pattern)

  • This pattern is supported for compatibility, but is much less flexible than the above

reg [ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0] read_addr_reg;
reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;
        read_addr_reg <= read_addr;
end

assign read_data = mem[read_addr_reg];

Single-port RAM memory patterns

Asynchronous-read single-port RAM

  • Will result in single-port LUT RAM on supported targets

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];
always @(posedge clk)
        if (write_enable)
                mem[addr] <= write_data;
assign read_data = mem[addr];

Synchronous single-port RAM with mutually exclusive read/write

  • Will result in single-port block RAM or LUT RAM depending on size

  • This is the correct pattern to infer ice40 SPRAM (with manual ram_style selection)

  • On targets that don’t support read/write block RAM ports (eg. ice40), will result in SDP block RAM instead

  • For block RAM, will use “NO_CHANGE” mode if available

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[addr] <= write_data;
        else if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[addr];
end

Synchronous single-port RAM with read-first behavior

  • Will only result in single-port block RAM when read-first behavior is natively supported; otherwise, SDP RAM with additional circuitry will be used

  • Many targets (Xilinx, ECP5, …) can only natively support read-first/write-first single-port RAM (or TDP RAM) where the write_enable signal implies the read_enable signal (ie. can never write without reading). The memory inference code will run a simple SAT solver on the control signals to determine if this is the case, and insert emulation circuitry if it cannot be easily proven.

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[addr] <= write_data;
        if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[addr];
end

Synchronous single-port RAM with write-first behavior

  • Will result in single-port block RAM or LUT RAM when supported

  • Block RAMs will require extra circuitry if write-first behavior not natively supported

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[addr] <= write_data;
        if (read_enable)
                if (write_enable)
                        read_data <= write_data;
                else
                        read_data <= mem[addr];
end

Synchronous read port with initial value

  • Initial read port values can be combined with any other supported pattern

  • If block RAM is used and initial read port values are not natively supported by the target, small emulation circuit will be inserted

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];
reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] read_data;
initial read_data = 'h1234;

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;
        if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

Read register reset patterns

Resets can be combined with any other supported pattern (except that synchronous reset and asynchronous reset cannot both be used on a single read port). If block RAM is used and the selected reset (synchronous or asynchronous) is used but not natively supported by the target, small emulation circuitry will be inserted.

Synchronous reset, reset priority over enable

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;

        if (read_reset)
                read_data <= 'h1234;
        else if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

Synchronous reset, enable priority over reset

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;
        if (read_enable)
                if (read_reset)
                        read_data <= 'h1234;
                else
                        read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

Synchronous read port with asynchronous reset

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;
end

always @(posedge clk, posedge read_reset) begin
        if (read_reset)
                read_data <= 'h1234;
        else if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

Asymmetric memory patterns

To construct an asymmetric memory (memory with read/write ports of differing widths):

  • Declare the memory with the width of the narrowest intended port

  • Split all wide ports into multiple narrow ports

  • To ensure the wide ports will be correctly merged:

    • For the address, use a concatenation of actual address in the high bits and a constant in the low bits

    • Ensure the actual address is identical for all ports belonging to the wide port

    • Ensure that clock is identical

    • For read ports, ensure that enable/reset signals are identical (for write ports, the enable signal may vary — this will result in using the byte enable functionality)

Asymmetric memory is supported on all targets, but may require emulation circuitry where not natively supported. Note that when the memory is larger than the underlying block RAM primitive, hardware asymmetric memory support is likely not to be used even if present as it is more expensive.

Wide synchronous read port

reg [7:0] mem [0:255];
wire [7:0] write_addr;
wire [5:0] read_addr;
wire [7:0] write_data;
reg [31:0] read_data;

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;
        if (read_enable) begin
                read_data[7:0] <= mem[{read_addr, 2'b00}];
                read_data[15:8] <= mem[{read_addr, 2'b01}];
                read_data[23:16] <= mem[{read_addr, 2'b10}];
                read_data[31:24] <= mem[{read_addr, 2'b11}];
        end
end

Wide asynchronous read port

  • Note: the only target natively supporting this pattern is Xilinx UltraScale

reg [7:0] mem [0:511];
wire [8:0] write_addr;
wire [5:0] read_addr;
wire [7:0] write_data;
wire [63:0] read_data;

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;
end

assign read_data[7:0] = mem[{read_addr, 3'b000}];
assign read_data[15:8] = mem[{read_addr, 3'b001}];
assign read_data[23:16] = mem[{read_addr, 3'b010}];
assign read_data[31:24] = mem[{read_addr, 3'b011}];
assign read_data[39:32] = mem[{read_addr, 3'b100}];
assign read_data[47:40] = mem[{read_addr, 3'b101}];
assign read_data[55:48] = mem[{read_addr, 3'b110}];
assign read_data[63:56] = mem[{read_addr, 3'b111}];

Wide write port

reg [7:0] mem [0:255];
wire [5:0] write_addr;
wire [7:0] read_addr;
wire [31:0] write_data;
reg [7:0] read_data;

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable[0])
                mem[{write_addr, 2'b00}] <= write_data[7:0];
        if (write_enable[1])
                mem[{write_addr, 2'b01}] <= write_data[15:8];
        if (write_enable[2])
                mem[{write_addr, 2'b10}] <= write_data[23:16];
        if (write_enable[3])
                mem[{write_addr, 2'b11}] <= write_data[31:24];
        if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

True dual port (TDP) patterns

  • Many different variations of true dual port memory can be created by combining two single-port RAM patterns on the same memory

  • When TDP memory is used, memory inference code has much less maneuver room to create requested semantics compared to individual single-port patterns (which can end up lowered to SDP memory where necessary) — supported patterns depend strongly on the target

  • In particular, when both ports have the same clock, it’s likely that “undefined collision” mode needs to be manually selected to enable TDP memory inference

  • The examples below are non-exhaustive — many more combinations of port types are possible

  • Note: if two write ports are in the same process, this defines a priority relation between them (if both ports are active in the same clock, the later one wins). On almost all targets, this will result in a bit of extra circuitry to ensure the priority semantics. If this is not what you want, put them in separate processes.

    • Priority is not supported when using the verific front end and any priority semantics are ignored.

TDP with different clocks, exclusive read/write

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk_a) begin
        if (write_enable_a)
                mem[addr_a] <= write_data_a;
        else if (read_enable_a)
                read_data_a <= mem[addr_a];
end

always @(posedge clk_b) begin
        if (write_enable_b)
                mem[addr_b] <= write_data_b;
        else if (read_enable_b)
                read_data_b <= mem[addr_b];
end

TDP with same clock, read-first behavior

  • This requires hardware inter-port read-first behavior, and will only work on some targets (Xilinx, Nexus)

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable_a)
                mem[addr_a] <= write_data_a;
        if (read_enable_a)
                read_data_a <= mem[addr_a];
end

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable_b)
                mem[addr_b] <= write_data_b;
        if (read_enable_b)
                read_data_b <= mem[addr_b];
end

TDP with multiple read ports

  • The combination of a single write port with an arbitrary amount of read ports is supported on all targets — if a multi-read port primitive is available (like Xilinx RAM64M), it’ll be used as appropriate. Otherwise, the memory will be automatically split into multiple primitives.

reg [31:0] mem [0:31];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] <= write_data;
end

assign read_data_a = mem[read_addr_a];
assign read_data_b = mem[read_addr_b];
assign read_data_c = mem[read_addr_c];

Patterns only supported with Verific

Synchronous SDP with write-first behavior via blocking assignments

  • Use sdp_wf for compatibility with Yosys Verilog frontend.

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] = write_data;

        if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

Asymmetric memories via part selection

  • Build wide ports out of narrow ports instead (see wide_sr) for compatibility with Yosys Verilog frontend.

reg [31:0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

wire [1:0] byte_lane;
wire [7:0] write_data;

always @(posedge clk) begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr][byte_lane * 8 +: 8] <= write_data;

        if (read_enable)
                read_data <= mem[read_addr];
end

Undesired patterns

Asynchronous writes

  • Not supported in modern FPGAs

  • Not supported in yosys code anyhow

reg [DATA_WIDTH - 1 : 0] mem [2**ADDR_WIDTH - 1 : 0];

always @* begin
        if (write_enable)
                mem[write_addr] = write_data;
end

assign read_data = mem[read_addr];