Transient fault detection via simultaneous multithreading

  • Reinhardt S
  • Mukherjee S
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Smaller feature sizes, reduced voltage levels, higher transistor counts, and reduced noise margins make future generations of microprocessors increasingly prone to transient hardware faults. Most commercial fault-tolerant computers use fully replicated hardware components to detect microprocessor faults. The components are lockstepped (cycle-by-cycle synchronized) to ensure that, in each cycle, they perform the same operation on the same inputs, producing the same outputs in the absence of faults. Unfortunately, for a given hardware budget, full replication reduces performance by statically partitioning resources among redundant operations. We demonstrate that a Simultaneous and Redundantly Threaded (SRT) processor-derived from a a Simultaneous Multithreaded (SMT) processor-provides transient fault coverage with significantly higher performance. An SRT processor provides transient fault coverage by running identical copies for the same program simultaneously as independent threads. An SRT processor provides higher performance because it dynamically schedules its hardware resources among the redundant copies. However, dynamic scheduling makes is difficult to implement lockstepping, because corresponding instructions from redundant threads may not execute in the same cycle or in the same order. This paper makes four contributions to the design of SRT processors. First, we introduce the concept of the sphere of replication, which abstract both the physical redundancy of a lockstepped system and the logical redundancy of an SRT processor. This framework aids in identifying the scope of fault coverage and the input and output values requiring special handling. Second, we identify two viable spheres of replication in an SRT processor, and show that one of them provides fault detection while checking only committed stores and uncached loads. Third, we identify the need for consistent replication of load values, and propose and evaluate two new mechanisms for satisfying thi- - s requirement. Finally, we propose and evaluate two mechanisms-slack fetch and branch outcome queue-that enhance the performance of an SRT processor by allowing one thread to prefetch cache misses and branch results for the other thread. Our results with 11 SPEC95 benchmarks show that an SRT processor can outperform an equivalently sized, on-chip, hardware-replicated solution by 16% on average, with maximum benefit of up to 29%.

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  • Steven K. Reinhardt

  • Shubhendu S. Mukherjee

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