As cloud and utility computing spreads, computer architects must ensure continued capability growth for the data centers that comprise the cloud. Given megawatt scale power budgets, increasing data center capability requires increasing computing hardware energy efficiency. To increase the data center’s capability for work, the work done per Joule must increase. We pursue this efficiency even as the nature of data center applications evolves. Unlike traditional enterprise workloads, which are typically memory or I/O bound, big data computation and analytics exhibit greater compute intensity. This article examines the efficiency of mobile processors as a means for data center capability. In particular, we compare and contrast the performance and efficiency of the Microsoft Bing search engine executing on the mobile-class Atom processor and the server-class Xeon processor. Bing implements statistical machine learning to dynamically rank pages, producing sophisticated search results but also increasing computational intensity. While mobile processors are energy-efficient, they exact a price for that efficiency. The Atom is 5× more energy-efficient than the Xeon when comparing queries per Joule. However, search queries on Atom encounter higher latencies, different page results, and diminished robustness for complex queries. Despite these challenges, quality-of-service is maintained for most, common queries. Moreover, as different computational phases of the search engine encounter different bottlenecks, we describe implications for future architectural enhancements, application tuning, and system architectures. After optimizing the Atom server platform, a large share of power and cost go toward processor capability. With optimized Atoms, more servers can fit in a given data center power budget. For a data center with 15MW critical load, Atom-based servers increase capability by 3.2× for Bing.
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.
Voltage variations are a major challenge in processor design. Here, researchers characterize the voltage noise characteristics of programs as they run to completion on a production Core 2 Duo processor. Furthermore, they characterize the implications of resilient architecture design for voltage variation in future systems.