AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

University of California, Berkeley uses AWS Educate and Amazon FPGA Instances in Undergraduate Computer Architecture Course

As the spring 2019 semester began, 60 plus junior and senior computer science students at the University of California, Berkeley started their “Computer Science 152” course. An elective within the Computer Science (CS) division, the class consists of a series of lab assignments aimed to teach computer architecture and major concepts used in modern microprocessors. In CS152, students study real RISC-V microprocessor designs implemented in the Chisel hardware description language, and simulate them with FireSim, which runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS) F1 instances in the cloud.

To give the students access to this type of computing power in the classroom, students use AWS Educate to receive credits for hands-on experience with AWS technology. With the AWS Educate credits, students gain in-depth experience on a variety of processor architectural techniques – spinning up multiple jobs and processing large datasets – all at no cost.

With AWS Educate, students can spin up an instance and have the processor mapped to the FPGA. Students run realistic, non-trivial workloads (e.g. SPEC 2017 benchmark suite) in the FPGA-based simulators.

“Using the cloud, FPGAs are much easier to provision for a class. Before we were working with orders-of-magnitude slower software simulators. Now, using AWS Educate with the Amazon FPGA instances, we are seeing a qualitative difference compared to what we were doing before. Students can now modify and rerun simulations quickly in order to dive into their studies,” said Professor Krste Asanović.

“With AWS EC2 F1 instances and FireSim, students can boot Linux and interact with RISC-V microprocessor designs in real time – almost like they had real silicon on their desk. But unlike real silicon, they can swap out their microprocessor on a whim, by spinning up a fresh simulator of a different design on their EC2 F1 instance,” said Berkeley student David Biancolin.

Learn more about how you can bring the power of the cloud to your classroom.