Custom wide counterflow pipelines for high-performance embedded applications
IEEE transactions on computers
Application-specific instruction set processor (ASIP) design is a promising technique to meet the performance and cost goals of high-performance systems. ASIPs are especially valuable for embedded computing applications (e.g., digital cameras, color printers, cellular phones, etc.) where a small increase in performance and decrease in cost can have a large impact on a product's viability. Sutherland, Sproull, and Molnar originally proposed a processor organization called the counterflow
... (CFP) as a general-purpose architecture. We observed that the CFP is appropriate for ASIP design due to its simple and regular structure, local control and communication, and high degree of modularity. This paper describes a new CFP architecture, called the wide counterflow pipeline (WCFP), that extends the original proposal to be better suited for custom embedded instruction-level parallel processors. This work presents a novel and practical application of the CFP to automatic and quick turnaround design of ASIPs. The paper introduces the WCFP architecture and describes several microarchitecture capabilities needed to get good performance from custom WCFPs. We demonstrate that custom WCFPs have performance that is up to four times better than that of ASIPs based on the CFP. Using an analytic cost model, we show that custom WCFPs do not unduly increase the cost of the original counterflow pipeline architecture, yet they retain the simplicity of the CFP. We also compare custom WCFPs to custom VLIW architectures and demonstrate that the WCFP is performance competitive with traditional VLIWs without requiring complicated global interconnection of functional devices.