Reducing leakage in a high-performance deep-submicron instruction cache

Deep-submicron CMOS designs maintain high transistor switching speeds by scaling down the supply voltage and proportionately reducing the transistor threshold voltage. Lowering the threshold voltage increases leakage energy dissipation due to subthreshold leakage current even when the transistor is not switching. Estimates suggest a five-fold increase in leakage energy in every future generation. In modern microarchitectures, much of the leakage energy is dissipated in large on-chip cache memory structures with high transistor densities. While cache utilization varies both within and across applications, modern cache designs are fixed in size resulting in transistor leakage inefficiencies. This paper explores an integrated architectural and circuit-level approach to reducing leakage energy in instruction caches (i-caches). At the architecture level, we propose the Dynamically ResIzable i-cache (DRI i-cache), a novel i-cache design that dynamically resizes and adapts to an application's required size. At the circuit-level, we use gated-V<inf>dd</inf>, a novel mechanism that effectively turns off the supply voltage to, and eliminates leakage in, the SRAM cells in a DRI i-cache's unused sections. Architectural and circuit-level simulation results indicate that a DRI i-cache successfully and robustly exploits the cache size variability both within and across applications. Compared to a conventional i-cache using an aggressively-scaled threshold voltage a 64 K DRI i-cache reduces on average both the leakage energy-delay product and cache size by 62%, with less than 4% impact on execution time. Our results also indicate that a wide NMOS dual-V<inf>t</inf> gated-V<inf>dd</inf> transistor with a charge pump offers the best gating implementation and virtually eliminates leakage energy with minimal increase in an SRAM cell read time area as compared to an i-cache with an aggressively-scaled threshold voltage.

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IEEE Transactions on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Systems, 9, 1, 77 - 89

 Record created 2009-04-06, last modified 2018-03-17

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