Variant HAL Porting

A variant port can be a fairly limited job, but can also require quite a lot of work. A variant HAL describes how a specific CPU variant differs from the generic CPU architecture. The variant HAL can re-define cache, MMU, interrupt, and other features which override the default implementation provided by the architecture HAL.

Doing a variant port requires a preexisting architecture HAL port. It is also likely that a platform port will have to be done at the same time if it is to be tested.

HAL Variant Porting Process

The easiest way to make a new variant HAL is simply to copy an existing variant HAL and change all the files to match the new variant. If this is the first variant for an architecture, it may be hard to decide which parts should be put in the variant - knowledge of other variants of the architecture is required.

Looking at existing variant HALs (e.g., MIPS tx39, tx49) may be a help - usually things such as caching, interrupt and exception handling differ between variants. Initialization code, and code for handling various core components (FPU, DSP, MMU, etc.) may also differ or be missing altogether on some variants. Linker scripts may also require specific variant versions.

Note: Some CPU variants may require specific compiler support. That support must be in place before you can undertake the eCos variant port.

HAL Variant CDL

The CDL in a variant HAL tends to depend on the exact functionality supported by the variant. If it implements some of the devices described in the platform HAL, then the CDL for those will be here rather than there (for example the real-time clock).

There may also be CDL to select options in the architecture HAL to configure it to a particular architectural variant.

Each variant needs an entry in the ecos.db file. This is the one for the SH3:

package CYGPKG_HAL_SH_SH3 {
    alias         { "SH3 architecture" hal_sh_sh3 }
    directory     hal/sh/sh3
    script        hal_sh_sh3.cdl
    description   "
        The SH3 (SuperH 3) variant HAL package provides generic
        support for SH3 variant CPUs."

As you can see, it is very similar to the platform entry.

The variant CDL file will contain a package entry named for the architecture and variant, matching the package name in the ecos.db file. Here is the initial part of the MIPS VR4300 CDL file:

cdl_package CYGPKG_HAL_MIPS_VR4300 {
    display       "VR4300 variant"
    parent        CYGPKG_HAL_MIPS
    implements    CYGINT_HAL_MIPS_VARIANT
    include_dir   cyg/hal
    define_header hal_mips_vr4300.h
    description   "
           The VR4300 variant HAL package provides generic support
           for this processor architecture. It is also necessary to
           select a specific target platform HAL package."

This defines the package, placing it under the MIPS architecture package in the hierarchy. The implements line indicates that this is a MIPS variant. The architecture package uses this to check that exactly one variant is configured in.

The variant defines some options that cause the architecture HAL to configure itself to support this variant.

    cdl_option CYGHWR_HAL_MIPS_64BIT {
        display    "Variant 64 bit architecture support"
        calculated 1

    cdl_option CYGHWR_HAL_MIPS_FPU {
        display    "Variant FPU support"
        calculated 1

    cdl_option CYGHWR_HAL_MIPS_FPU_64BIT {
        display    "Variant 64 bit FPU support"
        calculated 1

These tell the architecture that this is a 64 bit MIPS architecture, that it has a floating point unit, and that we are going to use it in 64 bit mode rather than 32 bit mode.

The CDL file finishes off with some build options.

    define_proc {
        puts $::cdl_header "#include <pkgconf/hal_mips.h>"

    compile       var_misc.c

    make {
        <PREFIX>/lib/target.ld: <PACKAGE>/src/mips_vr4300.ld
        $(CC) -E -P -Wp,-MD,target.tmp -DEXTRAS=1 -xc $(INCLUDE_PATH) $(CFLAGS) -o $@ $<
        @echo $@ ": \\" > $(notdir $@).deps
        @tail +2 target.tmp >> $(notdir $@).deps
        @echo >> $(notdir $@).deps
        @rm target.tmp

    cdl_option CYGBLD_LINKER_SCRIPT {
        display "Linker script"
        flavor data
        calculated  { "src/mips_vr4300.ld" }


The define_proc causes the architecture configuration file to be included into the configuration file for the variant. The compile causes the single source file for this variant, var_misc.c to be compiled. The make command emits makefile rules to combine the linker script with the .ldi file to generate target.ld. Finally, in the MIPS HALs, the main linker script is defined in the variant, rather than the architecture, so CYGBLD_LINKER_SCRIPT is defined here.

Cache Support

The main area where the variant is likely to be involved is in cache support. Often the only thing that distinguishes one CPU variant from another is the size of its caches.

In architectures such as the MIPS and PowerPC where cache instructions are part of the ISA, most of the actual cache operations are implemented in the architecture HAL. In this case the variant HAL only needs to define the cache dimensions. The following are the cache dimensions defined in the MIPS VR4300 variant var_cache.h.

// Data cache
#define HAL_DCACHE_SIZE                 (8*1024)        // Size of data cache in bytes
#define HAL_DCACHE_LINE_SIZE            16              // Size of a data cache line
#define HAL_DCACHE_WAYS                 1               // Associativity of the cache

// Instruction cache
#define HAL_ICACHE_SIZE                 (16*1024)       // Size of cache in bytes
#define HAL_ICACHE_LINE_SIZE            32              // Size of a cache line
#define HAL_ICACHE_WAYS                 1               // Associativity of the cache


Additional cache macros, or overrides for the defaults, may also appear in here. While some architectures have instructions for managing cache lines, overall enable/disable operations may be handled via variant specific registers. If so then var_cache.h should also define the HAL_XCACHE_ENABLE() and HAL_XCACHE_DISABLE() macros.

If there are any generic features that the variant does not support (cache locking is a typical example) then var_cache.h may need to disable definitions of certain operations. It is architecture dependent exactly how this is done.

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