PARBOR: An Efficient System-Level Technique to Detect Data-Dependent Failures in DRAM

Proceedings of the 45th Annual IEEE/IFIP International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN), Toulouse, France, June 28 - July 1 2016.

Samira Khan*, Donghyuk Lee†‡, Onur Mutlu†^

* University of Virginia
† Carnegie Mellon University
‡ Nvidia
^ ETH Zürich


System-level detection and mitigation of DRAM failures offer a variety of system enhancements, such as better reliability, scalability, energy, and performance. Unfortunately, systemlevel detection is challenging for DRAM failures that depend on the data content of neighboring cells (data-dependent failures). DRAM vendors internally scramble/remap the system-level address space. Therefore, testing data-dependent failures using neighboring system-level addresses does not actually test the cells that are physically adjacent. In this work, we argue that one promising way to uncover data-dependent failures in the system is to determine the location of physically neighboring cells in the system address space. Unfortunately, if done naively, such a test takes 49 days to detect neighboring addresses even in a single memory row, making it infeasible in real systems.

We develop PARBOR, an efficient system-level technique that determines the locations of the physically neighboring DRAM cells in the system address space and uses this information to detect data-dependent failures. To our knowledge, this is the first work that solves the challenge of detecting data-dependent failures in DRAM in the presence of DRAM-internal scrambling of system-level addresses. We experimentally demonstrate the effectiveness of PARBOR using 144 real DRAM chips from three major vendors. Our experimental evaluation shows that PARBOR 1) detects neighboring cell locations with only 66-90 tests, a 745;654X reduction compared to the naive test, and 2) uncovers 21.9% more failures compared to a random-pattern test that is unaware of the neighbor cell locations. We introduce a new mechanism that utilizes PARBOR to reduce refresh rate based on the data content of memory locations, thereby improving system performance and efficiency. We hope that our fast and efficient system-level detection technique enables other new ideas and mechanisms that improve the reliability, performance, and energy efficiency of DRAM-based memory systems.





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