Mitigating DRAM complexities through coordinated scheduling policies


Mitigating DRAM complexities through coordinated scheduling policies

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Title: Mitigating DRAM complexities through coordinated scheduling policies
Author: Stuecheli, Jeffrey Adam
Abstract: Contemporary DRAM systems have maintained impressive scaling by managing a careful balance between performance, power, and storage density. In achieving these goals, a significant sacrifice has been made in DRAM's operational complexity. To realize good performance, systems must properly manage the significant number of structural and timing restrictions of the DRAM devices. DRAM's efficient use is further complicated in many-core systems where the memory interface has to be shared among multiple cores/threads competing for memory bandwidth. In computer architecture, caches have primarily been viewed as a means to hide memory latency from the CPU. Cache policies have focused on anticipating the CPU's data needs, and are mostly oblivious to the main memory. This work demonstrates that the era of many-core architectures has created new main memory bottlenecks, and mandates a new approach: coordination of cache policy with main memory characteristics. Using the cache for memory optimization purposes dramatically expands the memory controller's visibility of processor behavior, at low implementation overhead. Through memory-centric modification of existing policies, such as scheduled writebacks, this work demonstrates that performance-limiting effects of highly-threaded architectures combined with complex DRAM operation can be overcome. This work shows that an awareness of the physical main memory layout and by focusing on writes, both read and write average latency can be shortened, memory power reduced, and overall system performance improved. The use of the "Page-Mode" feature of DRAM devices can mitigate many DRAM constraints. Current open-page policies attempt to garner the highest level of page hits. In an effort to achieve this, such greedy schemes map sequential address sequences to a single DRAM resource. This non-uniform resource usage pattern introduces high levels of conflict when multiple workloads in a many-core system map to the same set of resources. This work presents a scheme that provides a careful balance between the benefits (increased performance and decreased power), and the detractors (unfairness) of page-mode accesses. In the proposed Minimalist approach, the system targets "just enough" page-mode accesses to garner page-mode benefits, avoiding system unfairness. This is accomplished with the use of a fair memory hashing scheme to control the maximum number of page mode hits. High density memory is becoming ever more important as many execution streams are consolidated onto single chip many-core processors. DRAM is ubiquitous as a main memory technology, but while DRAM's per-chip density and frequency continue to scale, the time required to refresh its dynamic cells has grown at an alarming rate. This work shows how currently-employed methods to schedule refresh operations are ineffective in mitigating the significant performance degradation caused by longer refresh times. Current approaches are deficient -- they do not effectively exploit the flexibility of DRAMs to postpone refresh operations. This work proposes dynamically reconfigurable predictive mechanisms that exploit the full dynamic range allowed in the industry standard DRAM memory specifications. The proposed mechanisms are shown to mitigate much of the penalties seen with dense DRAM devices. In summary this work presents a significant improvement in the ability to exploit the capabilities of high density, high frequency, DRAM devices in a many-core environment. This is accomplished though coordination of previously disparate system components, exploiting integration of such components into highly integrated system designs.
Department: Electrical and Computer Engineering
Subject: Memory systems DRAM Cache Memory refresh Memory page-mode Memory scheduler
Date: 2011-05

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