Efficient Virtual Cache Coherency for Multi-core Systems and Accelerators

Thumbnail Image
Change log

There is a paradigm shift from general-purpose cores to specialised hardware, which has vastly different programming models. It will be helpful if the existing programming model can be kept and new hardware can co-exist and cooperate with existing userspace software. A virtual cache coherence protocol can be helpful for such task, allowing individual components to perform virtual address accesses without having to include their own hardware for address translation and memory protection. This thesis presents such a protocol, together with tooling and hardware infrastructure that are developed in the process of creating it.

This thesis makes three contributions. The first contribution is in the area of processor simulation techniques. A high-performance simulator is presented for exploring just the behaviour of translation lookaside buffers (TLBs). This is then extended to provide fast cycle-level simulator. The simulator employs an innovative technique to combine binary translation with cycle-level simulation and therefore significantly speedup the simulation process compared to traditional interpretation-based simulators. The simulator built, R2VM, can achieve ∼30 million instructions per second (MIPS) in cycle-level simulation in lockstep execution mode, more than 100x the performance of gem5 in a similar mode of operation. For non-cycle-level fast-forward execution, R2VM can achieve >400 MIPS per thread. This is significantly faster than gem5’s 3 MIPS fast-forward execution, and even better than emulators that exploit dynamic binary translation (DBT), such as QEMU.

The second contribution is a collection of open-source processor and system-on-chip (SoC) components, called Muntjac. Muntjac contains implementation of a RISC-V (RV64GC) core with machine and supervisor privilege levels, as well as cache subsystems and interconnect components that utilise TileLink. An untethered Linux-capable example SoC is implemented with these components. Muntjac core can achieve Dhrystone score of 2.17 DMIPS/MHz and CoreMark score of 3.01 CoreMark/MHz. Muntjac is designed to be modular, verifiable and extendable, and be a good starting point for education, research and industrial applications.

The final contribution is a virtual cache coherence protocol that permits the use of virtually-indexed virtually-tagged (VIVT) L1 caches. The protocol is designed to allow commonly used read-only synonyms to reside in caches while still maintaining correctness in hardware when writable synonyms occur. The protocol is designed and described in detail, and implemented and evaluated on a field programmable gate array (FPGA) using Muntjac. Caches that communicate using the protocol are implemented, and support has been added to a Linux kernel port. Systems with the protocol have lower resource utilisation and higher maximum frequency compared to the physically coherent counterpart as the TLB is removed from the L1 and the critical path of memory access, while still being comparable in terms of performance per MHz. The flexibility and advantages of the protocol are demonstrated by the creation and integration of easy-to-use accelerators that can be accessed from the general-purpose cores with a low latency.

Mullins, Robert
Accelerator, Cache Coherency, Computer Architecture, RISC-V, Simulation, Virtual Memory
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Peterhouse Graduate Studentship