Software, Architecture, and VLSI Co-Design for Fine-Grain Voltage and Frequency Scaling

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As emerging domains demand higher performance under stringent constraints on power and energy, computer architects are increasingly relying on a combination of parallelization and specialization to improve both performance and energy efficiency. However, the combination of parallelism and specialization is also steadily increasing on-chip asymmetry in the form of spatial heterogeneity and temporal variation, which poses key challenges in the form of widely varying utilization in space (i.e., across different components) and in time (i.e., used at different times across varying performance levels). Fine-grain on-chip asymmetry requires analogously fine-grain power-control techniques in order to power (or not power) different components to different levels at just the right times to significantly reduce waste. At the same time, traditional walls of abstraction have broken down, allowing a cross-stack co-design approach across software, architecture, and VLSI to provide new, previously inaccessible information to precisely control new hardware mechanisms. This thesis explores novel fine-grain voltage and frequency scaling techniques to improve both performance and energy efficiency with software, architecture, and VLSI co-design. First, I explore architecture-circuit co-design and leverage recent work on fully integrated voltage regulation to enable realistic fine-grain voltage and frequency scaling for homogeneous systems of little cores at microsecond timescales. Second, I broaden the scope to heterogeneous systems of big and little cores and specialize for productive software task-based parallel runtimes. Third, I investigate much finer-grain asymmetry that can be exploited within coarse-grain reconfigurable arrays, which have recently attracted significant interest due to their flexibility and potential for reducing data movement energy. Finally, I describe my work on four silicon prototypes including a mixed-signal test chip and three digital ASIC test chips that support different aspects of my thesis. Throughout my thesis, I take a software, architecture, and VLSI co-design approach and focus on exploiting information newly exposed across layers of abstraction. I leverage a vertically integrated research methodology spanning across applications, runtimes, architecture, cycle-level modeling, RTL, VLSI CAD tools, SPICE-level modeling, and silicon prototyping to evaluate the potential benefit of fine-grain voltage and frequency scaling techniques.

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156 pages


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computer architecture; fine-grain dvfs; heterogeneous computing; integrated voltage regulation; reconfigurable architectures; work-stealing runtimes


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Committee Chair

Batten, Christopher

Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Apsel, Alyssa B.
Manohar, Rajit

Degree Discipline

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Degree Name

Ph. D., Electrical and Computer Engineering

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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Attribution 4.0 International


dissertation or thesis

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