localparam in param port list

May 29, 2019

Designing configurable hardware IP is hard but necessary to be flexible IPs. As design cost increases over time due to increasing the salaries of the designers, increasing the tape-out cost, it is essential to reduce the development time. Preparing configurable designs can be a way to achieve it.

Early Era

The configurable hardware IP can be designed with multiple ways. In early era of Hardware Description Language, verilog-1995, it was common to use preprocessor define to design the IP configurable. Look at below example.

By changing AW and DW, the module can have various width of address and data. But if this module is used (instantiated) multiple times with different AW or DW, then it becomes bothersome. It needs undef for AW, and DW, after reading the module and needs a prefix to the module name to distinguish among multiple configurations.

Verilog-2001 Era

parameter existed prior to verilog 2001 but it became widely used with other verilog-2001 syntax. Module can have parameter port list prior to definitions of input and output ports. Look at the example below.

Now without having define, the module can have multiple configurations as above. While synthesizing (uniquify) the design module b is duplicated into b_AW_10_DW_64 and b_AW_14_DW_32.

This seems to solve everything but apparently not. If one of the parameter is derived from other parameter, and used in the ports, it also needs to be defined as parameter. It doesn’t prevent the parent module from overriding the derived parameter. In the below example, the parent module overrides AW which supposes to not be modified.

To avoid this, every module which has derived parameters, need to have some assertion using generate if.

Systemverilog Era

Systemverilog 2009 LRM introduced quite useful syntax to solve this issue. From SV 2009, localparam can be used in the parameter port list. Previously, localparam is only allowed after the module port definition. By allowing localparam in the port list, it removes above issues.

If the parent module tries to override localparam, it raises an error.


Using newly introduced syntax in the HDL area always considered risky. One tool may support it but other tools may not. If the other tool is used later of the design process such as equivalent checking, it consumes significant time to roll back the design. So, before adopting the new syntax to the design it is wise to check the compatibility of the widely used tools.

As I check, at least Vivado (Xilinx FPGA), VCS (Synopsys), Conformal (Cadence), Design Compiler (Synopsys), Verdi (Synopsys) Verilator support the localparam syntax. A few of those tools need additional options (for instance, verdi needs -2009 option to read the syntax). For the simulator in the Cadence, Incisive doesn’t support it so Xcelium should be used to run the simulation if you only have Cadence license.