Architectural explorations for streaming accelerators with customized memory layouts

Muhammad Shafiq
Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Departament d’Arquitectura de Computadors
Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, 2012


   title={Architectural explorations for streaming accelerators with customized memory layouts},

   author={Shafiq, M. and others},


   publisher={Universitat Polit{`e}cnica de Catalunya}


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The basic concept behind the architecture of a general purpose CPU core conforms well to a serial programming model. The integration of more cores on a single chip helped CPUs in running parts of a program in parallel. However, the utilization of huge parallelism available from many high performance applications and the corresponding data is hard to achieve from these general purpose multi-cores. Streaming accelerators and the corresponding programing models improve upon this situation by providing throughput oriented architectures. The basic idea behind the design of these architectures matches the everyday increasing requirements of processing huge data sets. These high-performance throughput oriented devices help in high performance processing of data by using efficient parallel computations and streaming based communications. The throughput oriented streaming accelerators – similar to the other processors – consist of numerous types of micro-architectural components including the memory structures, compute units, control units, I/O channels and I/O controls etc. However, the throughput requirements add some special features and impose other restrictions for the performance purposes. These devices, normally, offer a large number of compute resources but restrict the applications to arrange parallel and maximally independent data sets to feed the compute resources in the form of streams. The arrangement of data into independent sets of parallel streams is not an easy and simple task. It may need to change the structure of an algorithm as a whole or even it can require to write a new algorithm from scratch for the target application. However, all these efforts for the re-arrangement of application data access patterns may still not be very helpful to achieve the optimal performance. This is because of the possible micro-architectural constraints of the target platform for the hardware pre-fetching mechanisms, the size and the granularity of the local storage and the flexibility in data marshaling inside the local storage. The constraints of a general purpose streaming platform on the data pre-fetching, storing and maneuvering to arrange and maintain it in the form of parallel and independent streams could be removed by employing micro-architectural level design approaches. This includes the usage of application specific customized memories in the front-end of a streaming architecture. The focus of this thesis is to present architectural explorations for the streaming accelerators using customized memory layouts. In general the thesis covers three main aspects of such streaming accelerators in this research. These aspects can be categorized as : i) Design of Application Specific Accelerators with Customized Memory Layout ii) Template Based Design Support for Customized Memory Accelerators and iii) Design Space Explorations for Throughput Oriented Devices with Standard and Customized Memories. This thesis concludes with a conceptual proposal on a Blacksmith Streaming Architecture (BSArc). The Blacksmith Computing allow the hardware-level adoption of an application specific front-end with a GPU like streaming back-end. This gives an opportunity to exploit maximum possible data locality and the data level parallelism from an application while providing a throughput natured powerful back-end. We consider that the design of these specialized memory layouts for the front-end of the device are provided by the application domain experts in the form of templates. These templates are adjustable according to a device and the problem size at the device’s configuration time. The physical availability of such an architecture may still take time. However, simulation framework helps in architectural explorations to give insight into the proposal and predicts potential performance benefits for such an architecture.
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