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Modern embedded systems for digital signal processing (DSP) run increasingly sophisticated applications that require expansive performance resources, while simultaneously requiring better power utilization to prolong battery-life. Achieving such conflicting objectives requires innovative software/hardware design space exploration spanning a wide-array of techniques and technologies that offer trade-offs among performance, cost, power utilization, and overall system design complexity. To save on non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs and in order to meet shorter time-to-market requirements, designers are increasingly using an iterative design cycle and adopting model-based computer-aided design (CAD) tools to facilitate analysis, debugging, profiling, and design optimization.

In this dissertation, we present several profile- and instrumentation-based techniques that facilitate design and maintenance of embedded signal processing systems:

  1. We propose and develop a novel, translation lookaside buffer (TLB) preloading technique. This technique, called context-aware TLB preloading (CTP), uses a synergistic relationship between the (1) compiler for application specific analysis of a task's context, and (2) operating system (OS), for run-time introspection of the context and efficient identification of TLB entries for current and future usage. CTP works by (1) identifying application hotspots using compiler-enabled (or manual) profiling, and (2) exploiting well-understood memory access patterns, typical in signal processing applications, to preload the TLB at context switch time. The benefits of CTP in eliminating inter-task TLB interference and preemptively allocating TLB entries during context-switch are demonstrated through extensive experimental results with signal processing kernels.

  2. We develop an instrumentation-driven approach to facilitate the conversion of legacy systems, not designed as dataflow-based applications, to dataflow semantics by automatically identifying the behavior of the core actors as instances of well-known dataflow models. This enables the application of powerful dataflow-based analysis and optimization methods to systems to which these methods have previously been unavailable. We introduce a generic method for instrumenting dataflow graphs that can be used to profile and analyze actors, and we use this instrumentation facility to instrument legacy designs being converted and then automatically detect the dataflow models of the core functions. We also present an iterative actor partitioning process that can be used to partition complex actors into simpler entities that are more prone to analysis. We demonstrate the utility of our proposed new instrumentation-driven dataflow approach with several DSP-based case studies.

  3. We extend the instrumentation technique discussed in (2) to introduce a novel tool for model-based design validation called dataflow validation framework (DVF). DVF addresses the problem of ensuring consistency between (1) dataflow properties that are declared or otherwise assumed as part of dataflow-based application models, and (2) the dataflow behavior that is exhibited by implementations that are derived from the models. The ability of DVF to identify disparities between an application's formal dataflow representation and its implementation is demonstrated through several signal processing application development case studies.