Carnegie Mellon University
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The Heterogeneous Block Architecture

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journal contribution
posted on 2014-10-01, 00:00 authored by Chris Fallin, Chris Wilkerson, Onur Mutlu

This paper makes two observations that lead to a new heterogeneous core design. First, we observe that most serial code exhibits fine-grained heterogeneity: at the scale of tens or hundreds of instructions, regions of code fit different microarchitectures better (at the same point or at different points in time). Second, we observe that by grouping contiguous regions of instructions into blocks that are executed atomically, a core can exploit this fine-grained heterogeneity: atomicity allows each block to be executed independently on its own execution backend that fits its characteristics best. Based on these observations, we propose a fine-grained heterogeneous core design, called the heterogeneous block architecture (HBA), that combines heterogeneous execution backends into one core. HBA breaks the program into blocks of code, determines the best backend for each block, and specializes the block for that backend. As an example HBA design, we combine out-of-order, VLIW, and in-order backends, using simple heuristics to choose backends for different dynamic instruction blocks. Our extensive evaluations compare this example HBA design to multiple baseline core designs (including monolithic out-of-order, clustered out-of-order, in-order and a state-of-the-art heterogeneous core design) and show that it provides significantly better energy efficiency than all designs at similar performance.


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