Dynamically exploiting narrow width operands to improve processor power and performance

  • Brooks D
  • Martonosi M
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In general-purpose microprocessors, recent trends have pushed towards 64 bit word widths, primarily to accommodate the large addressing needs of some programs. Many integer problems, however, rarely need the full 64 bit dynamic range these CPUs provide. In fact, another recent instruction set trend has been increased support for sub-word operations (that is, manipulating data in quantities less than the full word size). In particular, most major processor families have introduced “multimedia” instruction set extensions that operate in parallel on several sub-word quantities in the same ALU. This paper notes that across the SPECint95 benchmarks, over half of the integer operation executions require 16 bits or less. With this as motivation, our work proposes hardware mechanisms that dynamically recognize and capitalize on these “narrow-bitwidth” instances. Both optimizations require little additional hardware, and neither requires compiler support. The first, power-oriented, optimization reduces processor power consumption by using aggressive clock gating to turn off portions of integer arithmetic units that will be unnecessary for narrow bitwidth operations. This optimization results in an over 50% reduction in the integer unit's power consumption for the SPECint95 and MediaBench benchmark suites. The second optimization improves performance by merging together narrow integer operations and allowing them to share a single functional unit. Conceptually akin to a dynamic form of MMX, this optimization offers speedups of 4.3%-6.2% for SPECint95 and 8.0%-10.4% for MediaBench

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  • D. Brooks

  • M. Martonosi

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