We present PyCARL, a PyNN-based common Python programming interface for hardware-software co-simulation of spiking neural network (SNN). Through PyCARL, we make the following two key contributions. First, we provide an interface of PyNN to CARLsim, a computationally-efficient, GPU-accelerated and biophysically-detailed SNN simulator. PyCARL facilitates joint development of machine learning models and code sharing between CARLsim and PyNN users, promoting an integrated and larger neuromorphic community. Second, we integrate cycle-accurate models of state-of-the-art neuromorphic hardware such as TrueNorth, Loihi, and DynapSE in PyCARL, to accurately model hardware latencies that delay spikes between communicating neurons and degrade performance. PyCARL allows users to analyze and optimize the performance difference between software-only simulation and hardware-software co-simulation of their machine learning models. We show that system designers can also use PyCARL to perform design-space exploration early in the product development stage, facilitating faster time-to-deployment of neuromorphic products. We evaluate the memory usage and simulation time of PyCARL using functionality tests, synthetic SNNs, and realistic applications. Our results demonstrate that for large SNNs, PyCARL does not lead to any significant overhead compared to CARLsim. We also use PyCARL to analyze these SNNs for a state-of-the-art neuromorphic hardware and demonstrate a significant performance deviation from software-only simulations. PyCARL allows to evaluate and minimize such differences early during model development.
* 10 pages, 25 figures. Accepted for publication at International Joint
Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN) 2020