Device and Bitstream classes

The Device is a class representing some programmable logic that is mainly used by the Overlay class. Each instance of the Device class has a corresponding server which manages the loaded overlay. The server can stop multiple overlays from different applications from overwriting the currently loaded overlay.

The overlay Tcl file is parsed by the Device class to generate the IP, clock, interrupts, and gpio dictionaries (lists of information about IP, clocks and signals in the overlay).

The Bitstream class can be found in the source file, and can be used instead of the overlay class to download a bitstream file to the PL without requiring an overlay Tcl file. This can be used for testing, but these attributes can also be accessed through the Overlay class (which inherits from this class). Using the Overlay class is the recommended way to access these attributes.



from pynq import Device

dev = Device.active_device # Retrieve the currently used device

dev.timestamp # Get the timestamp when the current overlay was loaded

dev.ip_dict # List IP in the overlay

dev.gpio_dict # List GPIO in the overlay

dev.interrupt_controllers # List interrupt controllers in the overlay

dev.interrupt_pins # List interrupt pins in the overlay

dev.hierarchy_dict # List the hierarchies in the overlay


from pynq import Bitstream

bit = Bitstream("base.bit") # No overlay Tcl file required



Device Server Types

The server associated to a Device can be of two types:

  1. Global server: this server is globally defined and shared across all Python processes.
  2. Local server: in this case, the server is defined locally with respect to a specific Python process and exists only within that context.

There are benefits and downsides for both approaches, and based on the requirements, scenarios in which one or the other is more appropriate. A global server will arbitrate the usage of a device across different processes, but its life-cycle is required to be managed explicitly. Conversely, a local process does not prevent contention across Python processes, but will be automatically spawned when a device is initialized and destroyed when the associated Python process exits.

When instantiating a Device object, three different strategies can be selected by setting the server_type flag appropriately :

  1. server_type="global" will tell the Device object to use a globally defined server. This server need to be already started separately.
  2. server_type="local" will instead spawn a local server, that will be closed as soon as the Python process terminates.
  3. server_type="fallback" will attempt to use a global server, and in case it fails, will fallback to a local server instance. This is the default behavior in case server_type is not defined.

For Zynq and ZynqUltrascale+ devices, the selected server type is global. In fact, the device server is started as a system service at boot time on PYNQ SD card images.

For XRT devices, the server type strategy is fallback. In case required, a system administrator can still setup a global device server to arbitrate usage. However, if a global server is not found, it will automatically default to using a local server instead.

More information about devices and bitstreams can be found in the pynq.bitstream Module and pynq.pl_server Package sections.