Improving energy efficiency of reliable massively-parallel architectures
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While transistor size continues to shrink every technology generation increasing the amount of transistors on a die, the reduction in energy consumption is less significant. Furthermore, newer technologies induce fabrication challenges resulting in uncertainties in transistor and wire properties. Therefore to ensure correctness, design margins are introduced resulting in significantly sub-optimal energy efficiency. While increasing parallelism and the use of gating methods contribute to energy consumption reduction, ultimately, more radical changes to the architecture and better integration of architectural and circuit techniques will be necessary. This dissertation explores one such approach, combining a highly-efficient massively-parallel processor architecture with a design methodology that reduces energy by trimming design margins. Using a massively-parallel GPU-like (graphics processing unit) base- line architecture, we discuss the different components of process variation and design microarchitectural approaches supporting efficient margins reduction. We evaluate our design using a cycle-based GPU simulator, describe the conditions where efficiency improvements can be obtained, and explore the benefits of decoupling across a wide range of parameters. We architect a test-chip that was fabricated and show these mechanisms to work. We also discuss why previously developed related approaches fall short when process variation is very large, such as in low-voltage operation or as expected for future VLSI technology. We therefore develop and evaluate a new approach specifically for high-variation scenarios. To summarize, in this work, we address the emerging challenges of modern massively parallel architectures including energy efficient, reliable operation and high process variation. We believe that the results of this work are essential for breaking through the energy wall, continuing to improve the efficiency of future generations of the massively parallel architectures.