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Adding a new IR operation

XLS has about 60 different opcodes and periodically new ones are added to extend functionality or improve the expressiveness of the IR. XLS has many different components and adding a new opcode involves changes to numerous places in the code. These changes, some of which are optional, are described below:

  1. Add operation to

    Opcodes and IR node classes are defined in the file This Python code generates the C++ header and source files which define opcodes (op.h and and the IR node type heirarchy (nodes.h and Every opcode has an associated node subclass derived from the xls::Node base class. Some opcodes such as Op::kArray have their own class (Array) because of the unique structure of the operation. Other opcodes such as the logical operations (Op::kAnd, Op::kOr, etc) share a common base class (BinOp).

    The first step to adding a new operations is to add an opcode, and potentially a new Node class, in After adding the opcode numerous files will fail to build because switch statements over the set of opcodes will no longer be exhaustive. Add the necessary cases to each switch statement. The exact code in each case will, of course, be operation-specific. Initially the implementation might return an absl::UnimplementedError status until later changes add proper support for the new operation.

    As part of this change the new operations needs to be added to the DFS visitor class DfsVisitor by adding a handler method. This class is used throughout XLS to traverse the IR. This will also adding an implementation of this new method to many of the subclasses derived from DfsVisitor.

    (Code example)

  2. IR Verifier

    The IR verifier checks numerous invariants about the IR including operation-specific properties such as the number and type of operands. Add an additional handler method for the new operand and add appropriate operation-specific checks.

    (Code example)

  3. IR Semantics document

    Describe the semantics and syntax of the new operation in the IR semantics document.

    (Code example)

  4. Function builder

    The function builder is the primary API for constructing IR. If appropriate, add a method to the BuilderBase class which adds an IR node of the new type to a function.

    (Code example)

  5. IR Parser

    Add support for parsing of the new operation. The parser tests typically send a snippet of IR with the operation through the parser and text serialization and verifies that the output matches the original. Supporting the new operation may requre modifying the xls::Node::ToString method to emit any special fields required by the operation.

    (Code example)

  6. IR Interpreter

    The IR interpreter has C++ implementations of all of the operations. Implement the new operation and add tests.

    (Code example)

  7. IR Matcher

    The IR matcher is used in tests to enable easy matching of IR expressions. For example, the following tests that the return value of a function is the parameter x plus the parameter y:

    EXPECT_THAT(f->return_value(), m::Add(m::Param("x", m::Param("y")));

    If the new operation has no named attributed, IR matcher support is typically a single line using the macro NODE_MATCHER. Otherwise, a custom matcher should be added to enable matching the attribute as well.

    (Code example)


    The LLVM JIT enables fast simulation of the XLS IR. The JIT constructs LLVM IR for each XLS operation which is then optimized by LLVM and runs natively on the host. Implement the new operation in the FunctionBuilderVisitor class.

    (Code example)

  9. Code generation

    In XLS "code generation" refers to the generation of (System)Verilog from XLS IR. If the operation can be emitted as a single Verilog expression, then likely support for the new operation can be added to node_expressions.h, otherwise if the implementation requires multiple statements then support is added to module_builder.h.

    (Code example)

  10. Abstract evaluator

    The abstract evaluator enables evaluation of the XLS IR using different evaluation systems than Boolean algebra. Users define the semantics of simple logical operations such as and, or, and not. Then, the abstract evaluator interprets an IR function using these rules. One example use case is ternary logic which uses three logic values (true, false, and unknown) rather than two (true and false) Ternary evaluation is used by the optimizer to discover statically known bits in the IR graph. The abstract evaluator can also be used for translation of the IR to other representations. For example, IR is translated to the Z3 solver representation for formal verification using the abstract evaluator.

    If appropriate, the operation should be implemented in AbstractNodeEvaluator by providing an implementation which decomposes the operation into fundamental logical operations.

    (Code example)

  11. Z3 solver

    The Z3 solver is used for theorem proving and logical equivalence checking between the IR in different stages of compilation and the netlist. To enable this functionality for the new operation, add a lowering of the operation to Z3's internal representation.

    (Code example)

  12. Delay model

    In order to generate efficient circuits which meet timing requirement, XLS models the delay (in picoseconds) of each operation for different process technology nodes. This model is constructed by characterizing the process node using an EDA tool to synthesize the circuit and estimate delay. Typically, a new operation will need to be characterized by running numerous permutations of the operation (e.g., with different bit widths) through a synthesis flow, extracting delay, and building a delay model.

    (Code example)

  13. DSLX frontend

    Most ops are used by the DSLX frontend in the lowering of DSLX to IR. The operation may be exposed directly as a builtin (or other operation) or used in the lowering of other AST nodes. In any case, some changes to the DSLX frontend will likely be necessary.

    (Code example)

  14. Operation-specific optimizations

    Typically, a new operation provides optimization opportunities unique to the node. The details, of course, will be vary for different operations. However, typically these are at least several easy optimizations which can be implemented.