1.1. The Energy
is a study of tradeoffs. In computer engineering the tradeoff
has traditionally been between performance, measured in instructions
per second, and price. Because of fabrication technology, price
is closely related to chip size and transistor count. With the
emergence of embedded systems, a new tradeoff has become the focus
of design. This new tradeoff is between performance and power
or energy consumption. The computational requirements of early
embedded systems were generally more modest, and so the performance-power
tradeoff tended to be weighted towards power. "High performance"
and "energy efficient" were generally opposing concepts.
classes of embedded applications are emerging which not only have
significant energy constraints, but also require considerable
computational resources. Devices such as space rovers, cell phones,
automotive control systems, and portable consumer electronics
all require or can benefit from high-performance processors. The
future generations of such devices should continue this trend.
for these devices must be able to deliver high performance with
low energy dissipation. Additionally, these devices evidence large
fluctuations in their performance requirements. Often a device
will have very low performance demands for the bulk of its operation,
but will experience periodic or asynchronous "spikes"
when high-performance is needed to meet a deadline or handle some
interrupt event. These devices not only require a fundamental
improvement in the performance power tradeoff, but also necessitate
a processor which can dynamically adjust its performance and power
characteristics to provide the tradeoff which best fits the system
requirements at that time.
Powerful but Cheap, and Lots of Control
point to three major objectives for a power conscious embedded
processor. Such a processor must be capable of high performance,
must consume low amounts of power, and must be able to adapt to
changing performance and power requirements at runtime.
of this seminar is to define a micro-architecture which can exhibit
low power consumption without sacrificing high performance. This
will require a fundamental shift to the power-performance curve
presented by traditional microprocessors. Additionally, the processor
design must be flexible and reconfigurable at run-time so that
it may present a series of configurations corresponding to different
tradeoffs between performance and power consumption.
and motivations were identified during the MORPH project, a part
of the Power Aware Computing / Communication (PACC) initiative.
In addition to exploring several mechanisms to fundamentally improve
performance, the MORPH project brought forth the idea of "gear
shifting" as an analogy for run-time reconfiguration. Realizing
that real world applications vary their performance requirements
dramatically over time, a major goal of the project was to design
microarchitectures which could adjust to provide the minimal required
performance at the lowest energy cost. The MORPH project explored
a number of microarchitectural techniques to achieve this goal,
such as morphable cache hierarchies and exploiting bit-slice inactivity.
One technique, multi-cluster architectures, is the direct predecessor
of this work. In addition to microarchitectural changes, MORPH
also conducted a survey of realistic embedded applications which
may be power constrained. Also, design implications of a power
aware runtime system were explored.
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