FireSim Basics

FireSim is an open-source FPGA-accelerated full-system hardware simulation platform that makes it easy to validate, profile, and debug RTL hardware implementations at 10s to 100s of MHz. FireSim simplifies co-simulating ASIC RTL with cycle-accurate hardware and software models for other system components (e.g. I/Os). FireSim can productively scale from individual SoC simulations hosted on on-prem FPGAs (e.g., a single Xilinx Alveo board attached to a desktop) to massive datacenter-scale simulations harnessing hundreds of cloud FPGAs (e.g., on Amazon EC2 F1).

FireSim users across academia and industry (at 20+ institutions) have published over 40 papers using FireSim in many areas, including computer architecture, systems, networking, security, scientific computing, circuits, design automation, and more (see the Publications page on the FireSim website to learn more). FireSim has also been used in the development of commercially-available silicon. FireSim was originally developed in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department at the University of California, Berkeley, but now has industrial and academic contributors from all over the world.

This documentation will walk you through getting started with using FireSim on your platform and also serves as a reference for more advanced FireSim features. For higher-level technical discussion about FireSim, see the FireSim website.

Common FireSim usage models

Below are three common usage models for FireSim. The first two are the most common, while the third model is primarily for those interested in warehouse-scale computer research. The getting started guides on this documentation site will cover all three models.

1. Single-Node Simulations Using One or More On-Premises FPGAs

In this usage model, FireSim allows for simulation of targets consisting of individual SoC designs (e.g., those produced by Chipyard) at 150+ MHz running on on-premises FPGAs, such as those attached to your local desktop, laptop, or cluster. Just like on the cloud, the FireSim manager can automatically distribute and manage jobs on one or more on-premises FPGAs, including running complex workloads like SPECInt2017 with full reference inputs.

2. Single-Node Simulations Using Cloud FPGAs

This usage model is similar to the previous on-premises case, but instead deploys simulations on FPGAs attached to cloud instances, rather than requiring users to obtain and set-up on-premises FPGAs. This allows for dynamically scaling the number of FPGAs in-use to match workload requirements. For example, on AWS EC2 F1, it is just as cost effective to run the 10 workloads in SPECInt2017 in parallel on 10 cloud FPGAs vs. running them serially on one cloud FPGA.


All automation in FireSim works in both the on-premises and cloud usage models, which enables a hybrid usage model where early development happens on one (or a small cluster of) on-premises FPGA(s), while bursting to a large number of cloud FPGAs when a high degree of parallelism is necessary.

3. Datacenter/Cluster Simulations on On-Premises or Cloud FPGAs

In this mode, FireSim also models a cycle-accurate network with parameterizeable bandwidth, link latency, and configurable topology to accurately model current and future datacenter-scale systems. For example, FireSim has been used to simulate 1024 quad-core RISC-V Rocket Chip-based nodes, interconnected by a 200 Gbps, 2us Ethernet network. To learn more about this use case, see our ISCA 2018 paper.

Other Use Cases

If you have other use-cases that we haven’t covered or don’t fit into the above buckets, feel free to contact us!

Choose your platform to get started

FireSim supports many types of FPGAs and FPGA platforms! Click one of the following links to work through the getting started guide for your particular platform.