Guaranteeing instruction fetch behavior with a lookahead instruction fetch engine (LIFE)

Stephen Roderick Hines, Yuval Peress, Peter Gavin, David Whalley, Gary Tyson
2009 Proceedings of the 2009 ACM SIGPLAN/SIGBED conference on Languages, compilers, and tools for embedded systems - LCTES '09  
Instruction fetch behavior has been shown to be very regular and predictable, even for diverse application areas. In this work, we propose the Lookahead Instruction Fetch Engine (LIFE), which is designed to exploit the regularity present in instruction fetch. The nucleus of LIFE is the Tagless Hit Instruction Cache (TH-IC), a small cache that assists the instruction fetch pipeline stage as it efficiently captures information about both sequential and non-sequential transitions between
more » ... ns. TH-IC provides a considerable savings in fetch energy without incurring the performance penalty normally associated with small filter instruction caches. LIFE extends TH-IC by making use of advanced control flow metadata to further improve utilization of fetch-associated structures such as the branch predictor, branch target buffer, and return address stack. These structures are selectively disabled by LIFE when it can be determined that they are unnecessary for the following instruction to be fetched. Our results show that LIFE enables further reductions in total processor energy consumption with no impact on application execution times even for the most aggressive powersaving configuration. We also explore the use of LIFE metadata on guiding decisions further down the pipeline. Next sequential line prefetch for the data cache can be enhanced by only prefetching when the triggering instruction has been previously accessed in the TH-IC. This strategy reduces the number of useless prefetches and thus contributes to improving overall processor efficiency. LIFE enables designers to boost instruction fetch efficiency by reducing energy cost without negatively affecting performance.
doi:10.1145/1542452.1542469 dblp:conf/lctrts/HinesPGWT09 fatcat:itrmcfgtlvbaldl3iy7becq4fm