There is an increasing trend to use commodity microprocessors as the compute engines in large-scale multiprocessors. However, given that the majority of the microprocessors are sold in the workstation market, not in the multiprocessor market, it is only natural that architectural features that benefit only multiprocessors are less likely to be adopted in commodity microprocessors. In this paper, we explore multiple-context processors, an architectural technique proposed to hide the large memory latency in multiprocessors. We show that while current multiple-context designs work reasonably well for multiprocessors, they are ineffective in hiding the much shorter uniprocessor latencies using the limited parallelism found in workstation environments. We propose an alternative design that combines the best features of two existing approaches, and present simulation results that show it yields better performance for both multiprogrammed workloads on a workstation and parallel applications on a multiprocessor. By addressing the needs of the workstation environment, our proposal makes multiple contexts more attractive for commodity microprocessors.
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