Coding Style Guide

This style guide sets out some best practices for writing applications for

New compiler in beta now!

We have released a beta version of our new compiler, rio . If you are using Rio in your projects it is worth noting that some of the information in this style guide is no longer correct and will be updated with the full rollout of the new compiler soon. Please note some significant changes: when using Rio, loop unrolling is now automatic, so you don’t need to do this in your code. Loop unrolling is done within the new compiler on a cost basis – more complex loops, and those with more iterations are less likely to be unrolled. Also, pipelining is no longer automatic but can be achieved using goroutines.


We provide a stripped down version of a project to help you get started creating your own programs. You can find a template included in the tutorial materials you downloaded during our second tutorial, located here: tutorials/template. For more information on using the templates, see Tutorial – Structure and Communication.

FPGA interface

Our FPGA interface documentation details the Go packages required to communicate between the host CPU and the FPGA, and for using the shared memory available on the FPGA card. The term ‘kernel’ is used to refer to the code running on the FPGA:

Code organization

Splitting code between a CPU and FPGA usually involves a separation that is different to what you would expect when using just a CPU. A CPU is flexible and good at sequential things, whereas the FPGA is good for static things that lend themselves to parallelism. The best separation will depend on your application, but dividing based upon the relative strengths of CPUs and FPGAs is generally a great place to start. For instance, for data processing applications, a natural separation would be to do data preprocessing and postprocessing on the CPU, while having the FPGA do a calculation intensive loop.

The host CPU

Data types

On the host CPU, int and uint are 64 bit, but on the FPGA they are both 32 bit. When using int and uint as the parameters to the FPGA, you can get unexpected results so we suggest using int32 and uint32 specifically for FPGA parameters in order to avoid this issue.


Break out small functions

When using graph generation to inspect performance, it’s generally better to break out small functions. This allows you to better reason about their parallel aspects, and then embed them into a larger program. For example, if (a * b) + c is in an inner loop of your application, breaking it out into the below function will help you see its performance in isolation.

For example:

func MultiplyAndAdd(a uint, b uint, c uint) uint {
   return (a * b) + c

Use goroutines for small scale parallelism

The compiler performs dependency analysis, and will parallelize statements that don’t have a strict dependency on each other. In some cases, it will enforce an unnecessary sequential dependency. When you find these using the graph generation, you can use goroutines and channels to force parallelism.

// If this for some reason sequentializes the calls to Foo & Bar
func Baz(a int, b int) int {
   return Foo(a) + Bar(a)

// You can force it to run them in parallel using goroutines
// Here's a rewritten version of the function to force
// the functions to be evaluated in parallel
func Baz(a int, b int) int {
   tmp1 := make(chan int)
   go func(){
     tmp1 <- Foo(a)

   tmp2 := make(chan int)
   go func(){
     tmp2 <- Bar(b)

   return (<-tmp1) + (<-tmp2)

Unroll loops

For small, often used inner loops, it’s best to unroll them to ensure parallel processing. In the below example, the loop version will take an order of magnitude longer to run than the unrolled version. You can see from the graphs that the loop is a much more complex process than the unrolled version.

func Add4Loop(a [4]int) int {
   sum := 0
   for i := 0; i < 4; i++ {
       sum += a[i]
   return sum

Graph of Add4Loop function

func Add4Unrolled(a [4]int) int {
   return (a[0] + a[1]) + (a[2] + a[3])

Graph of Add4Unrolled function


In most cases goroutines that process data from an input channel and write the result to an output channel within an infinite loop will transform to a pipeline.

As an example, the code below would result in a pipeline that you could stream data through at one element per clock:

func foo(a <-chan int, b <-chan int, sum chan<- int, product chan<- int) {
  for {
    operandA := <-a
    operandB := <-b
    product <- operandA * operandB
    sum <- operandA + operandB

Here’s the dataflow graph for the code above so you can see the pipelining:


The main limitations for this feature are:

  • The goroutine must not have any internal state.
  • No control flow structures can be used within the loop.
  • The input and output channels must have a length of at least 1 in order to avoid rendezvous synchronisation with the producers and consumers.

Data size considerations

When passing data to the FPGA the size of the data determines where on the FPGA it will end up, which in turn affects how it will be accessed:

  • Arrays of 512 bits or fewer will be stored in registers
  • Arrays of 513 bits or more will be held in block RAM

Block RAM access is always sequential, whereas registers support parallel reads and writes for operations accessing different parts of the register.

When using switch statements we suggest using the smallest possible data type because this reduces the amount of logic required to evaluate the switch conditions.