OpenTitan Big Number Accelerator (OTBN)

This directory contains the implementation of the OpenTitan Big Number Accelerator (OTBN). OTBN is a coprocessor for asymmetric cryptographic operations like RSA or Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC).

See for documentation on the current version of OTBN; documentation matching the code in this directory can be found in the doc directory.

OTBN is under active development. Please ask questions and report issues through the GitHub issue tracker.

Develop OTBN

Build OTBN software

An assembler, linker and disassembler for OTBN can be found in hw/ip/otbn/util. These are wrappers around a RISC-V GCC and binutils toolchain so one must be available (see the OpenTitan documentation on obtaining a toolchain. For more details about the toolchain, see the user guide).

otbn-as and otbn-ld can be used to build .elf files for use with simulations. They work work similarly to binutils programs they wrap.

hw/ip/otbn/util/otbn-as -o prog_bin/prog.o prog.s
hw/ip/otbn/util/otbn-ld -o prog_bin/prog.elf prog_bin/prog.o

Will assemble and link prog.s resulting in prog_bin/prog.elf that can be run directly on the ISS or the standalone RTL simulation.

Work with the ISA

The instruction set is described in machine readable form in data/insns.yml. This is parsed by Python code in util/, which runs various basic checks on the data. The binutils-based toolchain described above uses this information. Other users include:

  • util/ Generates a Markdown snippet which is included in the OTBN specification.

  • util/otbn-rig: A random instruction generator for OTBN. See util/rig/ for further information.

Run the standalone RTL simulation

A standalone environment to run OTBN alone in Verilator is included. Build it with fusesoc as follows:

fusesoc --cores-root=. run --target=sim --setup --build lowrisc:ip:otbn_top_sim

It includes functionality to set the initial Dmem and Imem contents from a .elf file. The start address is hard coded to 0. Modify the ImemStartAddr parameter in ./dv/verilator/ to change this. A .elf (see above for build instructions) can be loaded and run as follows:

./build/lowrisc_ip_otbn_top_sim_0.1/sim-verilator/Votbn_top_sim \

The simulation automatically halts on an ecall instruction and prints the final register values. The ISS is run in parallel and final register and memory state will be cross-checked.

Tracing functionality is available in the Votbn_top_sim binary. To obtain a full .fst wave trace pass the -t flag. To get an instruction level trace pass the --otbn-trace-file=trace.log argument. The instruction trace format is documented in hw/ip/otbn/dv/tracer.

Run the smoke test

A smoke test which exercises some functionality of OTBN can be found, together with its expected outputs (in the form of final register values), in ./hw/ip/otbn/dv/smoke. The test can be run using a script.


This will build the standalone simulation, build the smoke test binary, run it and check the results are as expected.

Run OT earlgrey simulation with the OTBN model, rather than the RTL design

For simulation targets, the OTBN block can be built with both the RTL implementation and the Python-based instruction set simulator (hereafter called the ISS) compiled in. When running the simulation the plusarg OTBN_USE_MODEL can be used to switch between the RTL implementation and the model, without recompiling the simulation.

The Verilator simulation of Earl Grey (lowrisc:systems:top_earlgrey_verilator) builds the model by default when compiling the simulation and nothing else needs to be done. For other simulation targets, set the OTBN_BUILD_MODEL define, e.g. by passing --OTBN_BUILD_MODEL to fusesoc.

To run the simulation against the OTBN ISS pass +OTBN_USE_MODEL=1 to the simulation run, e.g.

build/lowrisc_systems_top_earlgrey_verilator_0.1/sim-verilator/Vtop_earlgrey_verilator \
  --meminit=rom,build-bin/sw/device/boot_rom/boot_rom_sim_verilator.elf  \
  --meminit=flash,build-bin/sw/device/tests/dif_otbn_smoketest_sim_verilator.elf \
  +UARTDPI_LOG_uart0=- \

The simulation communicates with the model by creating a directory in the temporary directory (/tmp or TMPDIR) and filling it with files. Normally, it cleans up after itself. If something goes wrong and you’d like to look at these files, set the OTBN_MODEL_KEEP_TMP environment variable to 1.

Run the ISS on its own

There are currently two versions of the ISS and they can be found in dv/otbnsim. The easiest to use is dv/otbnsim/ This takes an OTBN binary as an ELF file (as produced by the standard linker script for otbn-ld) and can dump the resulting DMEM if given the --dmem-dump argument. To see an instruction trace, pass the --verbose flag.

There is also dv/otbnsim/ This takes flat binary files with the contents of IMEM and DMEM and, when finished, generates a cycle count and dumps DMEM contents. This is used to implement the model inside of simulation, but is probably not very convenient for command-line use otherwise.

Test the ISS

The ISS has a simple test suite, which runs various instructions and makes sure they behave as expected. You can find the tests in dv/otbnsim/test and can run them with make -C dv/otbnsim test.