4. Quick Start for Quartus II and Quartus Prime

InTime is a software tool that solves FPGA timing, fitting and optimization problems with massive computing power and machine learning. The tool contains built-in intelligence to analyze an FPGA design and determine strategies for synthesis and place-and-route. FPGA designers use InTime in a few scenarios:

  • To solve a timing or fitting problem at a critical juncture in the design flow.
  • To continuously optimize the synthesis or place-and-route results throughout the design process.

The ensuing sections help users get started quickly.


4.2. Run InTime

  1. There are 2 ways to run InTime: the installer creates desktop shortcuts for both InTime and InTime Agent.
  • Double-click the InTime desktop shortcut shown in Figure 110.

Figure 110: InTime Desktop Icon

  • In Linux, open a commandline terminal and enter the following command:

    <InTime installation directory>/intime.sh
  1. Next, go to File > Open Project to open your FPGA project. If successful, the project name will be displayed, similar to the one shown in Figure 111.

Figure 111: Project successfully opened

4.3. Select a Recipe

An InTime Recipe represents a compilation and learning flow. For example, Placement Seed Exploration is a recipe that tries different compilation seeds.


Figure 112: Recipe flow guide


Plunify recommends starting with the InTime Default recipe at the beginning.

Based on your design, this recipe generates 3 (by default) rounds of compilations using different synthesis and place-and-route parameters. The purpose of this recipe is to learn about the dependencies between the design and the tool parameters through multiple rounds of compilations, in order to get the best timing results possible. A list of available recipes for the Quartus II and Quartus Prime software is shown in Figure 113.


Figure 113: Typical Recipe list

4.4. Set Flow Properties

Before clicking the “Start Recipe” button, please specify the required server resource parameters, most importantly, the number of compilations, the number of rounds to run, and finally the number of servers (see Figure 114).


Figure 114: Essential flow properties


When selecting the Private Cloud run target, please make sure your private cloud is properly configured as described in the InTime Configuration Guide.

4.5. Start Recipe

  1. Click “Start Recipe” as shown in Figure 115.

Figure 115: Just click to begin!

  1. When InTime is running, the generated strategies and their statuses will automatically refresh (see Figure 116).

Figure 116: Status of each strategy as the job progresses

What is InTime doing?

  1. Analyze the design locally. If it is the first time, compile the design once, otherwise re-use existing results.
  2. From the database, extract related learning data from previous builds.
  3. Generate strategies according to the Runs Per Round and assign a new Job ID.
  4. Look for available servers.
  5. Replicate and distribute the project for the servers to compile.
  6. After compilation, extract the results and delete temporary files. If any compilation exceeds the maximum specified runtime, stop it and clean up.

4.6. Analyze Results

  1. After a successful compilation, a green circle will appear beside each strategy, along with the timing and area results (see Figure 117).

Figure 117: Compilation results

  1. A green highlight for the result metric (Timing Score in this example) means that the result improved and yellow means that it got worse. You can sort the results by clicking the respective column header(s).
  1. Right-click and select “Analyze Job XX + Child Jobs” to see the rate of improvement and results across jobs (see Figure 118 and Figure 119).

Figure 118: Analysis options


Figure 119: Results of all compilations

  1. Select “Multiple Job Analysis” to see the results across rounds as shown in Figure 120.

Figure 120: Results improved from job to job

4.7. Export Selected Result

When you have obtained a good result, you can export it to your FPGA software to verify the result. If not, continue to run more rounds.

To export a result,

  1. Right-click the desired result and choose “Export”. In the example below, we choose the revision “calibrate_175”.
  2. You can apply the selected strategy to your project as a new revision or to the default revision. See Figure 121 for all available export options.

Figure 121: Export result

  1. You can accept the default revision name or specify a new one.

Figure 122: Provide a new revision name

  1. After exporting, open this project in your FPGA software. Switch the active revision to the one that you exported. (In this example, we use Quartus-II)

Figure 123: Switch to the exported revision

  1. To verify the result, re-run your project to check that the timing result is the same as what is reported in InTime. You can view the reports provided by the FPGA software to understand more about the design.

Figure 124: View the result in the FPGA software

The sum of all the End Point TNS values (Setup, Hold, etc.) is equal to the TNS reported by InTime.

4.8. Further References

In summary, the Quick Start guide shows you how to run InTime, view the results and export selected ones to your FPGA project. For more details and tips on InTime features and flows, please refer to the full InTime documentation (intime.pdf).