Staged Memory Scheduling: Achieving High Performance and Scalability in Heterogeneous Systems

Proceedings of the 39th International Symposium on Computer Architecture, Portland, Oregon, June 9-13th, 2012.

Rachata Ausavarungnirun, Kevin Kai-Wei Chang, Lavanya Subramanian, Gabriel H. Loh*, Onur Mutlu

Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

* Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.


When multiple processor (CPU) cores and a GPU integrated together on the same chip share the off-chip main memory, requests from the GPU can heavily interfere with requests from the CPU cores, leading to low system performance and starvation of CPU cores. Unfortunately, state-of-the-art application-aware memory scheduling algorithms are ineffective at solving this problem at low complexity due to the large amount of GPU traffic. A large and costly request buffer is needed to provide these algorithms with enough visibility across the global request stream, requiring relatively complex hardware implementations.

This paper proposes a fundamentally new approach that decouples the memory controller's three primary tasks into three significantly simpler structures that together improve system performance and fairness, especially in integrated CPU-GPU systems. Our three-stage memory controller first groups requests based on row-buffer locality. This grouping allows the second stage to focus only on inter-application request scheduling. These two stages enforce high-level policies regarding performance and fairness, and therefore the last stage consists of simple per-bank FIFO queues (no further command reordering within each bank) and straightforward logic that deals only with low-level DRAM commands and timing.

We evaluate the design trade-offs involved in our Staged Memory Scheduler (SMS) and compare it against three state-of-the-art memory controller designs. Our evaluations show that SMS improves CPU performance without degrading GPU frame rate beyond a generally acceptable level, while being significantly less complex to implement than previous application-aware schedulers. Furthermore, SMS can be configured by the system software to prioritize the CPU or the GPU at varying levels to address different performance needs.





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