Reduction of variation-induced energy overhead in multi-core processors

N. Drego, A. Chandrakasen, D. Boning and D. Shah
IEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems, Volume 30, No. 6, pp. 891-904, June 2011

Core-to-core variability in future many-core chip multi-processors (CMPs) negatively impacts energy. Under-performing cores necessitate increasing the system voltage to maintain homogeneous core performance, introducing an energy overhead. Multiple supply voltages can be used to mitigate the impact of delay variation in CMPs. In this paper, we carefully analyze the use of a local search algorithm to pick near-optimal supply voltages while meeting a fixed performance target. With two system voltages, we prove our algorithm selects the global optimum and in the more general multiple voltage case we develop quantitative bounds. Using a custom simulation methodology on a real processor core, we show that two system voltages provide the most incremental benefit, reducing the energy overhead relative to a single voltage by 59-75% and total energy by 6-16%. Additionally, the worst 5-15% of cores in such systems necessitate increasingly larger amounts of incremental energy for a constant incremental performance gain. Therefore, turning off or disabling these cores is beneficial to a joint performance-energy metric.