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Clock generation and distribution are essential to CMOS microchips, providing synchronization to external devices and between internal sequential logic. Clocks in microprocessors are highly vulnerable to single event effects and designing reliable energy efficient clock networks for mission critical applications is a major challenge. This dissertation studies the basics of radiation hardening, essentials of clock design and impact of particle strikes on clocks in detail and presents design techniques for hardening complete clock systems in digital ICs.
Since the sequential elements play a key role in deciding the robustness of any clocking strategy, hardened-by-design implementations of triple-mode redundant (TMR) pulse clocked latches and physical design methodologies for using TMR master-slave flip-flops in application specific ICs (ASICs) are proposed. A novel temporal pulse clocked latch design for low power radiation hardened applications is also proposed. Techniques for designing custom RHBD clock distribution networks (clock spines) and ASIC clock trees for a radiation hardened microprocessor using standard CAD tools are presented. A framework for analyzing the vulnerabilities of clock trees in general, and study the parameters that contribute the most to the tree’s failure, including impact on controlled latches is provided. This is then used to design an integrated temporally redundant clock tree and pulse clocked flip-flop based clocking scheme that is robust to single event transients (SETs) and single event upsets (SEUs). Subsequently, designing robust clock delay lines for use in double data rate (DDRx) memory applications is studied in detail. Several modules of the proposed radiation hardened all-digital delay locked loop are designed and studied. Many of the circuits proposed in this entire body of work have been implemented and tested on a standard low-power 90-nm process.
Ever reducing time to market, along with short product lifetimes, has created a need to shorten the microprocessor design time. Verification of the design and its analysis are two major components of this design cycle. Design validation techniques can be broadly classified into two major categories: simulation based approaches and formal techniques. Simulation based microprocessor validation involves running millions of cycles using random or pseudo random tests and allows verification of the register transfer level (RTL) model against an architectural model, i.e., that the processor executes instructions as required. The validation effort involves model checking to a high level description or simulation of the design against the RTL implementation. Formal techniques exhaustively analyze parts of the design but, do not verify RTL against the architecture specification. The focus of this work is to implement a fully automated validation environment for a MIPS based radiation hardened microprocessor using simulation based approaches. The basic framework uses the classical validation approach in which the design to be validated is described in a Hardware Definition Language (HDL) such as VHDL or Verilog. To implement a simulation based approach a number of random or pseudo random tests are generated. The output of the HDL based design is compared against the one obtained from a "perfect" model implementing similar functionality, a mismatch in the results would thus indicate a bug in the HDL based design. Effort is made to design the environment in such a manner that it can support validation during different stages of the design cycle. The validation environment includes appropriate changes so as to support architecture changes which are introduced because of radiation hardening. The manner in which the validation environment is build is highly dependent on the specifications of the perfect model used for comparisons. This work implements the validation environment for two MIPS simulators as the reference model. Two bugs have been discovered in the RTL model, using simulation based approaches through the validation environment.
With increasing transistor volume and reducing feature size, it has become a major design constraint to reduce power consumption also. This has given rise to aggressive architectural changes for on-chip power management and rapid development to energy efficient hardware accelerators. Accordingly, the objective of this research work is to facilitate software developers to leverage these hardware techniques and improve energy efficiency of the system. To achieve this, I propose two solutions for Linux kernel: Optimal use of these architectural enhancements to achieve greater energy efficiency requires accurate modeling of processor power consumption. Though there are many models available in literature to model processor power consumption, there is a lack of such models to capture power consumption at the task-level. Task-level energy models are a requirement for an operating system (OS) to perform real-time power management as OS time multiplexes tasks to enable sharing of hardware resources. I propose a detailed design methodology for constructing an architecture agnostic task-level power model and incorporating it into a modern operating system to build an online task-level power profiler. The profiler is implemented inside the latest Linux kernel and validated for Intel Sandy Bridge processor. It has a negligible overhead of less than 1\% hardware resource consumption. The profiler power prediction was demonstrated for various application benchmarks from SPEC to PARSEC with less than 4\% error. I also demonstrate the importance of the proposed profiler for emerging architectural techniques through use case scenarios, which include heterogeneous computing and fine grained per-core DVFS. Along with architectural enhancement in general purpose processors to improve energy efficiency, hardware accelerators like Coarse Grain reconfigurable architecture (CGRA) are gaining popularity. Unlike vector processors, which rely on data parallelism, CGRA can provide greater flexibility and compiler level control making it more suitable for present SoC environment. To provide streamline development environment for CGRA, I propose a flexible framework in Linux to do design space exploration for CGRA. With accurate and flexible hardware models, fine grained integration with accurate architectural simulator, and Linux memory management and DMA support, a user can carry out limitless experiments on CGRA in full system environment.
The holy grail of computer hardware across all market segments has been to sustain performance improvement at the same pace as silicon technology scales. As the technology scales and the size of transistors shrinks, the power consumption and energy usage per transistor decrease. On the other hand, the transistor density increases significantly by technology scaling. Due to technology factors, the reduction in power consumption per transistor is not sufficient to offset the increase in power consumption per unit area. Therefore, to improve performance, increasing energy-efficiency must be addressed at all design levels from circuit level to application and algorithm levels.
At architectural level, one promising approach is to populate the system with hardware accelerators each optimized for a specific task. One drawback of hardware accelerators is that they are not programmable. Therefore, their utilization can be low as they perform one specific function. Using software programmable accelerators is an alternative approach to achieve high energy-efficiency and programmability. Due to intrinsic characteristics of software accelerators, they can exploit both instruction level parallelism and data level parallelism.
Coarse-Grained Reconfigurable Architecture (CGRA) is a software programmable accelerator consists of a number of word-level functional units. Motivated by promising characteristics of software programmable accelerators, the potentials of CGRAs in future computing platforms is studied and an end-to-end CGRA research framework is developed. This framework consists of three different aspects: CGRA architectural design, integration in a computing system, and CGRA compiler. First, the design and implementation of a CGRA and its instruction set is presented. This design is then modeled in a cycle accurate system simulator. The simulation platform enables us to investigate several problems associated with a CGRA when it is deployed as an accelerator in a computing system. Next, the problem of mapping a compute intensive region of a program to CGRAs is formulated. From this formulation, several efficient algorithms are developed which effectively utilize CGRA scarce resources very well to minimize the running time of input applications. Finally, these mapping algorithms are integrated in a compiler framework to construct a compiler for CGRA
Reducing device dimensions, increasing transistor densities, and smaller timing windows, expose the vulnerability of processors to soft errors induced by charge carrying particles. Since these factors are inevitable in the advancement of processor technology, the industry has been forced to improve reliability on general purpose Chip Multiprocessors (CMPs). With the availability of increased hardware resources, redundancy based techniques are the most promising methods to eradicate soft error failures in CMP systems. This work proposes a novel customizable and redundant CMP architecture (UnSync) that utilizes hardware based detection mechanisms (most of which are readily available in the processor), to reduce overheads during error free executions. In the presence of errors (which are infrequent), the always forward execution enabled recovery mechanism provides for resilience in the system. The inherent nature of UnSync architecture framework supports customization of the redundancy, and thereby provides means to achieve possible performance-reliability trade-offs in many-core systems. This work designs a detailed RTL model of UnSync architecture and performs hardware synthesis to compare the hardware (power/area) overheads incurred. It then compares the same with those of the Reunion technique, a state-of-the-art redundant multi-core architecture. This work also performs cycle-accurate simulations over a wide range of SPEC2000, and MiBench benchmarks to evaluate the performance efficiency achieved over that of the Reunion architecture. Experimental results show that, UnSync architecture reduces power consumption by 34.5% and improves performance by up to 20% with 13.3% less area overhead, when compared to Reunion architecture for the same level of reliability achieved.