Main Memory Scaling: Challenges and Solution Directions [chapter]

Onur Mutlu
2015 More than Moore Technologies for Next Generation Computer Design  
The memory system is a fundamental performance and energy bottleneck in almost all computing systems. Recent system design, application, and technology trends that require more capacity, bandwidth, efficiency, and predictability out of the memory system make it an even more important system bottleneck. At the same time, DRAM technology is experiencing difficult technology scaling challenges that make the maintenance and enhancement of its capacity, energy-efficiency, and reliability
more » ... ability significantly more costly with conventional techniques. In this chapter, after describing the demands and challenges faced by the memory system, we examine some promising research and design directions to overcome challenges posed by memory scaling. Specifically, we describe three major solution directions: 1) enabling new DRAM architectures, functions, interfaces, and better integration of the DRAM and the rest of the system (an approach we call system-DRAM co-design), 2) designing a memory system that employs emerging non-volatile memory technologies and takes advantage of multiple different technologies (i.e., hybrid memory systems), 3) providing predictable performance and QoS to applications sharing the memory system (i.e., QoS-aware memory systems). We also briefly describe our ongoing related work in combating scaling challenges of NAND flash memory. v vi 6 Main Memory Scaling: Challenges and Solution Directions Trends: Systems, Applications, Technology In particular, on the systems/architecture front, energy and power consumption have become key design limiters as the memory system continues to be responsible for a significant fraction of overall system energy/power [69] . More and increasingly heterogeneous processing cores and agents/clients are sharing the memory system [6, 21, 107, 45, 46, 36, 23] , leading to increasing demand for memory capacity and bandwidth along with a relatively new demand for predictable performance and quality of service (QoS) from the memory system [81, 87, 106]. On the applications front, important applications are usually very data intensive and are becoming increasingly so [8], requiring both real-time and offline manipulation of great amounts of data. For example, next-generation genome sequencing technologies produce massive amounts of sequence data that overwhelms memory storage and bandwidth requirements of today's high-end desktop and laptop systems [109, 4, 115] yet researchers have the goal of enabling low-cost personalized medicine. Creation of new killer applications and usage models for computers likely depends on how well the memory system can support the efficient storage and manipulation of data in such data-intensive applications. In addition, there is an increasing trend towards consolidation of applications on a chip to improve efficiency, which leads to the sharing of the memory system across many heterogeneous applications with diverse performance requirements, exacerbating the aforementioned need for predictable performance guarantees from the memory system [106, 108] . On the technology front, two major trends profoundly affect memory systems. First, there is increasing difficulty scaling the well-established charge-based memory technologies, such as DRAM [77, 53, 40, 5, 62, 1] and flash memory [59, 76, 10, 11, 14] , to smaller technology nodes. Such scaling has enabled memory systems with reasonable capacity and efficiency; lack of it will make it difficult to achieve high capacity and efficiency at low cost. Second, some emerging resistive memory technologies, such as phase change memory (PCM) [100, 113, 62, 63, 98] , spin-transfer torque magnetic memory (STT-MRAM) [19, 60] or resistive RAM (RRAM) [114] appear more scalable, have latency and bandwidth characteristics much closer to DRAM than flash memory and hard disks, and are non-volatile with little idle power consumption. Such emerging technologies can enable new opportunities in system design, including, for example, the unification of memory and storage subsystems [80] . They have the potential to be employed as part of main memory, alongside or in place of less scalable and leaky DRAM, but they also have various shortcomings depending on the technology (e.g., some have cell endurance problems, some have very high write latency/power, some have low density) that need to be overcome or tolerated.
doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-2163-8_6 fatcat:okw4kxakuja43kac65zy5c35ye