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SRAM-DRAM hybrid memory with applications to efficient register files in fine-grained multi-threading

Wing-kei S. Yu, Ruirui Huang, Sarah Q. Xu, Sung-En Wang, Edwin Kan, G. Edward Suh
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
Proceeding of the 38th annual international symposium on Computer architecture, ISCA ’11, 2011

@inproceedings{yu2011sram,

   title={SRAM-DRAM hybrid memory with applications to efficient register files in fine-grained multi-threading},

   author={Yu, W.S. and Huang, R. and Xu, S.Q. and Wang, S.E. and Kan, E. and Suh, G.E.},

   booktitle={Proceeding of the 38th annual international symposium on Computer architecture},

   pages={247–258},

   year={2011},

   organization={ACM}

}

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Large register files are common in highly multi-threaded architectures such as GPUs. This paper presents a hybrid memory design that tightly integrates embedded DRAM into SRAM cells with a main application to reducing area and power consumption of multi-threaded register files. In the hybrid memory, each SRAM cell is augmented with multiple DRAM cells so that multiple bits can be stored in each cell. This configuration results in significant area and energy savings compared to the SRAM array with the same capacity due to compact DRAM cells. On other hand, the hybrid memory requires explicit data movements in order to access DRAM contexts. In order to minimize context switching impact, we introduce write-back buffers, background context switching, and context-aware thread scheduling, to the processor pipeline and the scheduler. Circuit and architecture simulations of GPU benchmarks suites show significant savings in register file area (38%) and energy (68%) over the traditional SRAM implementation, with minimal (1.4%) performance loss.
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