Programming Guide


Fast Recompile for FPGA

Intel® oneAPI
supports only the ahead-of-time (AoT) compilation for FPGA hardware, which means that an FPGA device image is generated at compile time. The FPGA device image generation process can take hours to complete. If you make a change that is exclusive to the host code, then recompile only your host code by reusing the existing FPGA device image and circumventing the time-consuming device compilation process.
Intel® oneAPI
provides the following mechanisms to separate device code and host code compilation:
  • Passing the
    flag to instruct the compiler to attempt to reuse the existing FPGA device image.
  • Separating the host and device code into separate files. When a code change applies only to host-only files, the FPGA device image is not regenerated.
The following sections explain these two mechanisms in detail.

Using the

If the device code and options affecting the device have not changed since the previous compilation, passing the
flag instructs the compiler to extract the compiled FPGA hardware image from the existing executable and package it into the new executable, saving the device compilation time.
Sample use:
# Initial compilation dpcpp -fintelfpga -Xshardware <files.cpp> -o out.fpga
The initial compilation generates an FPGA device image, which takes several hours. Suppose you now make some changes to the host code.
# Subsequent recompilation dpcpp <files.cpp> -o out.fpga -reuse-exe=out.fpga -Xshardware -fintelfpga
One of the following actions are taken by the command:
  • If the
    file does not exist, the
    flag is ignored and the FPGA device image is regenerated. This is always the case the first time you compile a project.
  • If the
    file is found, the compiler verifies no change that affect the FPGA device code is made since the last compilation. If no change is detected in the device code, the compiler then reuses the existing FPGA device image and recompiles only the host code. The recompilation process takes a few minutes to complete.
  • If the
    file is found, but the compiler cannot prove that the FPGA device code will yield a result identical to the last compilation, a warning is printed and the FPGA device code is fully recompiled. Since the compiler checks must be conservative, spurious recompilations can sometimes occur when using the

Using the Device Link Method

Suppose the program is separated into two files,
, where only the
file contains the device code.
In the normal compilation process, FPGA device image generation happens at link time.
# normal compile command dpcpp -fintelfpga -Xshardware main.cpp kernel.cpp -o link.fpga
As a result, any change to either the
triggers the regeneration of an FPGA hardware image.
The following graph depicts this compilation process:
Compilation Process
If you want to iterate on the host code and avoid long compile time for your FPGA device, consider using a device link to separate the device and host compilation:
# device link command dpcpp -fintelfpga -fsycl-link=image <input files> [options]
The compilation is a three-step process as listed in the following:
  1. Compile the device code.
    dpcpp -fintelfpga -Xshardware -fsycl-link=image kernel.cpp -o dev_image.a
    Input files must include all files that contain the device code. This step might take several hours to complete.
  2. Compile the host code.
    dpcpp -fintelfpga main.cpp -c -o host.o
    Input files should include all source files that contain only the host code. These files must not contain any source code that executes on the device but may contain setup and tear-down code, for example, parsing command line options and reporting results. This step takes seconds to complete.
  3. Create the device link.
    dpcpp -fintelfpga host.o dev_image.a -o fast_recompile.fpga
    This step takes seconds to complete. The input should include one or more host object files (
    ) and exactly one device image file (
    ). When linking a static library (
    file), always include the static library after its use. Otherwise, the library's functions are discarded. For additional information about static library linking, refer to Library order in static linking.
You only need to perform steps 2 and 3 when modifying host-only files.
The following diagram illustrates the device link process:
FPGA Device Link Process
Refer to the fast_recompile tutorial in the Intel® oneAPI Samples Browser for an example using the device link method.

Which Mechanism to Use?

Of the two mechanisms described above, the
flag mechanism is easier to use than the device link mechanism. The flag also allows you to keep your host and device code as a single source, which is preferred for small programs. For larger and more complex projects, the device link method has the advantage of giving you more control over the compiler's behavior.
However, there are some drawbacks of the
flag when compared to compiling separate files. Consider the following when using the
  • The compiler must spend time partially recompiling and then analyzing the device code to ensure that it is unchanged. This takes several minutes for larger designs. Compiling separate files does not incur this extra time.
  • You might occasionally encounter a
    false positive
    where the compiler incorrectly believes that it must recompile your device code. In a single source file, the device and host code are coupled, so certain changes to the host code can change the compiler's view of the device code. The compiler always behaves conservatively and triggers a full recompilation if it cannot prove that reusing the previous FPGA binary is safe. Compiling separate files eliminates this possibility.

Product and Performance Information


Performance varies by use, configuration and other factors. Learn more at