Introduction to MPACT-Sim

MPACT-Sim is a framework and library designed to make it easier to create high performance ISA simulators for a wide range of instruction set architectures. Simulators built using MPACT-Sim are easy to create, easy to instrument, and fast. The motivating use-case for MPACT-Sim is to quickly create, and easily modify, simulators for (instruction set) architectural exploration. However, the resulting simulator can also be used for system modeling, compiler validation, or software development for architectures that have no (or limited) hardware availability.

MPACT-Sim makes it easy to express and implement instruction semantics as simple C++ functions/callables. MPACT-Sim also provides a declarative methodology for expressing instructions to enable automatic generation of most of the instruction decoder, increasing the ease and velocity by which new simulators can be created. Custom configuration entries can easily be added, and the resulting simulators are easy to instrument using a set of standard classes.


The tutorials that follow provide a guided walk-through of creating an ISA simulator for a subset of RiscV instructions sufficient for executing a "hello world" application compiled for the RV32I architectural subset. They cover the following activities:

  • Write an ISA decoder description for RV32I.

    This describes the individual instructions independent of their external representation (encoding). This description is used to generate C++ code that initializes the simulator's internal instruction descriptors.

  • Write a binary decoder description for RV32I.

    This describes the binary encoding of the instructions, bit-fields and their values. This is used to generate a decoder for the instructions capable of mapping an instruction word to an opcode, and extracting the values of specific bit-fields.

  • Write an integrated (full) instruction decoder that integrates the two generated decoders, adding required code to cover what the generated code does not.

  • Write instruction semantic functions to provide the implementations of each of the target RV32I instructions.

Writing the remaining code required to complete the simulator, including the code controlling instruction issue, is not covered by the current tutorials, but may be added in the future. However, sample code can be viewed in the tutorial repository, as well as in the repository for full [MPACT-RiscV simulator]

The simulator infrastructure is written in C++, so a good working knowledge of C++ is assumed.