Unintended variations in circuit lithography and undesirable fluctuations in circuit operating parameters such as supply voltage and temperature are threatening the continuation of technology scaling that microprocessor evolution relies on. Although circuit-level solutions for some variation problems may be possible, they are prohibitively expensive and impractical for commodity processors, on which not only the consumer market but also an increasing segment of the business market now depends. Solutions at the microarchitecture level and even the software level, on the other hand, overcome some of these circuitlevel challenges without significantly raising costs or lowering performance. Using examples drawn from our Alarms Project and related work, we illustrate how collaborative design that encompasses circuits, architecture, and chip-resident software leads to a cost-effective solution for inductive voltage noise, sometimes called the dI/dt problem.
The strategy that we use for assuring correctness while preserving performance can be extended to other variation problems. Index Terms—Dynamic variation, error correction, error detection, error recovery, error resiliency, hw/sw co-design, inductive noise, power supply noise, reliability, resilient design, resilient microprocessor, timing error, variation, voltage droop.