Rust and FPGAs, is it possible?

Hello to all !

I make this post to ask about the possibility of running Rust code on FPGAs. And if possible, you recommend it ? Or is it in an unstable phase ?

Thank you very much.

Hi, what exactly do you mean with "running Rust code on FPGAs"? Do you want to run Rust on FPGA soft-cores? Do you want to use Rust as hardware description language? Or do you want Rust high level synthesis? In general, you don't tell an FPGA what to run, but rather what to be.

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An interesting idea.

I'm no HDL expert but have managed to get some simple logic working in FPGA from Verilog.

I almost have a working RISC V processor core working written in SpinalHDL. Which is a hardware description language inside Scala.

So the thought did cross my mind if such an HDL could be done in Rust. Basically a Rust to Verilog transpiler, like Spinal or Chisel.

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Ooh, that's an interesting idea. Like what if you could use Rusts type system to represent what was valid HDL somehow and then use a macro to compile that to Verilog or something.

Otherwise, @ManuelCostanzo, if you just wanted to run a Rust program on an FPGA, you could synthesize a RISC-V CPU on your FPGA using something like VexRiscV, which is I think the CPU @ZiCog was referring to, and then compile your Rust code for the RISC-V architecture and run that on your FGPGA CPU.

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Assuming you mean high-level synthesis, there's a recent (January 2020) paper about converting a Rust EDSL into register transfer language.

There's also kaze, another embedded HDL that can generate either Verilog or simulator code.

Another interesting thing is XLS, a Google project that aims to be an intermediate representation generator and optimizer for high-level synthesis, similar to LLVM for CPU code. It might be interesting to try and emit their IR from Rust.

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I have the PicoRV32 implemented on a DE0 Nano FPGA board.

It was a couple of years ago that I spent some time with FPGA, just out of curiosity. Somebody gave me that DE-0 board so I thought I'd take the opportunity see what Verilog was all about. I landed on the PicoRV32 because it is very small and I could easily rip the CPU core out of there and start surrounding it with my own peripherals, memory, UART, GPIO, etc. After all, the idea was to learn some Verilog, not just use some ready made thing.

That led to a happy excursion down the rabbit hole of open source HDL tools, Icarus Verilog, the Verilator, Icestorm, SymbiFlow

The result of all that is here: it runs C code at 100MHz clock.

The inevitable next step was to create my own RISC V core. I set about creating my own "sodor" core in SpinalHDL

The result of that is my "sodor-spinal" core Which whilst it decodes and executes RISC V instructions well enough under test does not yet run autonomously.

Recently I was thinking to get my picorv32 running some Rust. But all this is on hold as real work got in the way.

Everyone who complains about the slow compile times of Rust should spend a week with Verilog and the Quartus IDE :slight_smile:


Slightly off-topic, but HDL tooling is not only slow (I buy that, routing and the like are supposedly NP-complete problems), but generally I find their IDEs outright distasteful. So much complexity hidden behind unnecessarily complicated GUIs, it's not even funny. Never used Quartus, but I've had the bad luck of using some Xilinx tools (the old ISE as well as its revamp, Vivado), and I was not pleased, to say the least.

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Quartus is equally gross. It's huge and slow. The complexity of it's interface is off the scale. The editor is mediocre. Simply compiling ones project take forever, never mind fully synthesizing the design and configuring a device. I find it unusable for riffing on Verilog, the edit/compile turn round time is just too much. I wonder if there is actually anyone out there who uses it as their sole FPGA dev tool.

What finally got me to look into FPGA was the discovery that with Icarus one could create some code and a little test bench and it would simulate and test the design almost instantly. That makes the edit/test development cycle more like working with Python.

Then there is the Verilator Verilog compiler, more difficult to use but very fast, for when you want to simulate something bigger.

I'm looking forward to getting back to FPGA using symbiflow. Which can synthesize a whole RISC V plus ones little extras in seconds.

I can't believe how much you know and how much I can learn. Thank you very much !

I will study everything that was sent


Don't let me impress you so much. I have only scratched the surface of logic deign and FPGA. Little hobby scale experiments.

Do it give it a go. It's fun.


it's more of a compiler internal representation, rather than a Rust to FPGA compiler, but LLHD (written in Rust) and Circt (part of the LLVM project) are quite interesting!


I knew about LLHD, but CIRCT is new to me! Thanks for the link.

I'm actually hoping these efforts eventually lead to languages that can largely supplant Verilog (and VHDL) at least in the hobby space.

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According to the ReadMe of LLHD, it is a part of CIRCT.