In recent years, circuit reliability in modern high-performance processors has become increasingly important. Shrinking feature sizes and diminishing supply voltages have made circuits more sensitive to microprocessor supply voltage fluctuations. These fluctuations result from the natural variation of processor activity as workloads execute, but when left unattended, these voltage fluctuations can lead to timing violations or even transistor lifetime issues. In this paper, we present a hardware-software collaborative approach to mitigate voltage fluctuations. A checkpoint-recovery mechanism rectifies errors when voltage violates maximum tolerance settings, while a run-time software layer reschedules the program’s instruction stream to prevent recurring violations at the same program location. The run-time layer, combined with the proposed code rescheduling algorithm, removes 60% of all violations with minimal overhead, thereby significantly improving overall performance. Our solution is a radical departure from the ongoing industry standard approach to circumvent the issue altogether by optimizing for the worst case voltage flux, which compromises power and performance efficiency severely, especially looking ahead to future technology generations. Existing conservative approaches will have severe implications on the ability to deliver efficient microprocessors. The proposed technique reassembles a traditional reliability problem as a runtime performance optimization problem, thus allowing us to design processors for typical case operation by building intelligent algorithms that can prevent recurring violations.
Categories and Subject Descriptors: B.8.1 [Performance and Reliability]: Reliability, Testing, and Fault-Tolerance
General Terms: Performance, Reliability
Additional Key Words and Phrases: Voltage Noise, dI/dt, Inductive Noise, Voltage Emergencies
In the era of nanoscale technology scaling, we are facing the limits of physics, challenging robust and reliable microprocessor design and fabrication. As these trends continue, guaranteeing correctness of execution is becoming prohibitively expensive and impractical. In this thesis, we demonstrate the benefits of abstracting circuit-level challenges to the architecture and software layers. Reliability challenges are broadly classified into process, voltage, and thermal variations. As proof of concept, we target voltage variation, which is least understood, demonstrating its growing detrimental effects on future processors: Shrinking feature size and diminishing supply voltage are making circuits more sensitive to supply voltage fluctuations within the microprocessor. If left unattended, these voltage fluctuations can lead to timing violations or even transistor lifetime issues. This problem, more commonly known as the dI/dt problem, is forcing microprocessor designers to increasingly sacrifice processor performance, as well as power efficiency, in order to guarantee correctness and robustness of operation. Industry addresses this problem by un-optimizing the processor for the worst case voltage flux. Setting such extreme operating voltage margins for those large and infrequent voltage swings is not a sustainable solution in the long term. Therefore, we depart from this traditional strategy and operate the processor under more typical case conditions. We demonstrate that a collaborative architecture between hardware and software enables aggressive operating voltage margins, and as a consequence improves processor performance and power efficiency. This co-designed architecture is built on the principles of tolerance, avoidance and elimination. Using a fail-safe hardware mechanism to tolerate voltage margin violations, we enable timing speculation, while a run-time hardware and software layer attempts to not only predict and avoid impending violations, but also reschedules instructions and co-schedules threads intelligently to eliminate voltage violations altogether. We believe tolerance, avoidance and elimination are generalizable constructs capable of acting as guidelines to address and successfully mitigate the other parameter-related reliability challenges as well.
Parameter variations have become a dominant challenge in microprocessor design. Voltage variation is es- pecially daunting because it happens rapidly. We measure and characterize voltage variation in a running Intel⃝R CoreTM2 Duo processor. By sensing on-die voltage as the processor runs single-threaded, multi- threaded, and multi-program workloads, we determine the average supply voltage swing of the processor to be only 4%, far from the processor’s 14% worst-case operating voltage margin. While such large margins guarantee correctness, they penalize performance and power efficiency. We investigate and quantify the benefits of designing a processor for typical-case (rather than worst-case) voltage swings, assuming that a fail-safe mechanism protects it from infrequently occurring large voltage fluctuations. With the investigated processors, such resilient designs could yield 15% to 20% performance improvements. But we also show that in future systems, these gains could be lost as increasing voltage swings intensify the frequency of fail-safe recoveries. After characterizing microarchitectural activity that leads to voltage swings within multi-core systems, we show two software techniques that have the potential to mitigate such voltage emergencies. A voltage-aware compiler can choose to de-optimize for performance in favor of better noise behavior, while a thread scheduler can co-schedule phases of different programs to mitigate error recovery overheads in future resilient processor designs.
More than 20% of the available energy is lost in “the last centimeter” from the PCB board to the microprocessor chip due to inherent inefficiencies of power delivery subsystems (PDSs) in today’s computing systems. By series-stacking multiple voltage domains to eliminate explicit voltage conversion and reduce loss along the power delivery path, voltage stacking (VS) is a novel configuration that can improve power delivery efficiency (PDE). However, VS suffers from aggravated levels of supply noise caused by current imbalance between the stacking layers, preventing its practical adoption in mainstream computing systems. Throughput-centric manycore architectures such as GPUs intrinsically exhibit more balanced workloads, yet suffer from lower PDE, making them ideal platforms to implement voltage stacking. In this paper, we present a cross-layer approach to practical voltage stacking implementation in GPUs. It combines circuit-level voltage regulation using distributed charge-recycling integrated voltage regulators (CR-IVRs) with architecture-level voltage smoothing guided by control theory. Our proposed voltage-stacked GPUs can eliminate 61.5% of total PDS energy loss and achieve 92.3% system-level power delivery efficiency, a 12.3% improvement over the conventional single-layer based PDS. Compared to the circuit-only solution, the cross-layer approach significantly reduces the implementation cost of voltage stacking (88% reduction in area overhead) without compromising supply reliability under worst-case scenarios and across a wide range of real-world benchmarks. In addition, we demonstrate that the cross-layer solution not only complements on-chip CR-IVRs to transparently manage current imbalance and restore stable layer voltages, but also serves as a seamless interface to accommodate higher-level power optimization techniques, traditionally thought to be incompatible with a VS configuration.
The commoditization of hardware, data center economies of scale, and Internet-scale workload growth all demand greater power efficiency to sustain scalability. Traditional enterprise workloads, which are typically memory and I/O bound, have been well served by chip multiprocessors comprising of small, power-efficient cores. Recent advances in mobile computing have led to modern small cores capable of delivering even better power efficiency. While these cores can deliver performance-per-Watt efficiency for data center workloads, small cores impact application quality-of-service robustness, and flexibility, as these workloads increasingly invoke computationally intensive kernels. These challenges constitute the price of efficiency. We quantify efficiency for an industry-strength online web search engine in production at both the microarchitecture- and system-level, evaluating search on server and mobile-class architectures using Xeon and Atom processors.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
C.0 [Computer Systems Organization]: General—System architectures; C.4 [Computer Systems Organization]: Performance of Systems—Design studies, Reliability, availability, and serviceability