Active memory operations

  • Authors:
  • Zhen Fang;Lixin Zhang;John B. Carter;Ali Ibrahim;Michael A. Parker

  • Affiliations:
  • Intel Corp., Hillsboro, OR;IBM Austin Research Lab, Austin, TX;University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT;AMD, Santa Clara, CA;Cray, Inc., Chippewa Falls, WI

  • Venue:
  • Proceedings of the 21st annual international conference on Supercomputing
  • Year:
  • 2007

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The performance of modern microprocessors is increasingly limited by their inability to hide main memory latency. The problem is worse in large-scale shared memory systems, where remote memory latencies are hundreds, and soon thousands, of processor cycles. To mitigate this problem, we propose the use of Active Memory Operations (AMOs), in which select operations can be sent to and executed on the home memory controller of data. AMOs can eliminate significant number of coherence messages, minimize intranode and internode memory traffic, and create opportunities for parallelism. Our implementation of AMOs is cache-coherent and requires no changes to the processor core or DRAM chips. In this paper we present architectural and programming models for AMOs, and compare its performance to that of several other memory architectures on a variety of scientific and commercial benchmarks. Through simulation we show that AMOs offer dramatic performance improvements for an important set of data-intensive operations, e.g., up to 50X faster barriers, 12X faster spinlocks, 8.5X-15X faster stream/array operations, and 3X faster database queries. Based on a standard cell implementation, we predict that the circuitry required to support AMOs is less than 1% of the typical chip area of a high performance microprocessor.