Licentiate thesis 2003-009

Cache Memory Design Trade-offs for Current and Emerging Workloads

Martin Karlsson

September 2003


The memory system is the key to performance in contemporary computer systems. When designing a new memory system, architectural decisions are often arbitrated based on their expected performance effect. It is therefore very important to make performance estimates based on workloads that accurately reflect the future use of the system. This thesis presents the first memory system characterization study of Java-based middleware, which is an emerging workload likely to be an important design consideration for next generation processors and servers.

Manufacturing technology has reached a point where it is now possible to fit multiple full-scale processors and integrate board-level features on a chip. The raised competition for chip resources has increased the need to design more effective caches without trading off area or power. Two common ways to improve cache performance is to increase the size or associativity of the cache. Both of these approaches come at a high cost in chip area as well as power.

This thesis presents two new cache organizations, each aimed at more efficient use of either power or area. First, the Elbow cache is presented, which is shown to be a power-efficient alternative to highly set-associative caches. Secondly, a selective cache allocation algorithm is presented, RASCAL, that significantly reduces the miss ratio at a limited cost in area.

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