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Multiple Sub-Row Buffers in DRAM: Unlocking Performance and Energy Improvement Opportunities

International conference on Supercomputing 2012
Venice, Italy, June 25--29 2012


  1. Nagendra Dwarakanath Gulur, Supercomputer Education and Research Centre
  2. R. Govindarajan, Supercomputer Education and Research Centre; Department of Computer Science and Automation


The twin demands of energy-efficiency and higher performance on DRAM are highly emphasized in multicore architectures. A variety of schemes have been proposed to address either the latency or the energy consumption of DRAMs. These schemes typically require non-trivial hardware changes and end up improving latency at the cost of energy or vice-versa. One specific DRAM performance problem in multicores is that interleaved accesses from different cores can potentially degrade row-buffer locality. In this paper, based on the temporal and spatial locality characteristics of memory accesses, we propose a reorganization of the existing single large row-buffer in a DRAM bank into multiple sub-row buffers (MSRB). This re-organization not only improves row hit rates, and hence the average memory latency, but also brings down the energy consumed by the DRAM. The first major contribution of this work is proposing such a reorganization without requiring any significant changes to the existing widely accepted DRAM specifications. Our proposed reorganization improves weighted speedup by 35.8%, 14.5% and 21.6% in quad, eight and sixteen core workloads along with a 42%, 28% and 31% reduction in DRAM energy. The proposed MSRB organization enables opportunities for the management of multiple row-buffers at the memory controller level. As the memory controller is aware of the behaviour of individual cores it allows us to implement coordinated buffer allocation schemes for different cores that take into account program behaviour. We demonstrate two such schemes, namely Fairness Oriented Allocation and Performance Oriented Allocation, which show the flexibility that memory controllers can now exploit in our MSRB organization to improve overall performance and/or fairness. Further, the MSRB organization enables additional opportunities for DRAM intra-bank parallelism and selective early precharging of the LRU row-buffer to further improve memory access latencies. These two optimizations together provide an additional 5.9% performance improvement.


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