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COMSM0109 Advanced Computer Architecture - Processor Assignment

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University of BristolCOMSM0109Advanced Computer ArchitectureProcessorC

Processor Assignment

February 8, 2021 CourseNana.COM

1 Introduction

This assignment will introduce you to how superscalar processors really work. The idea is to investigate such processors by: CourseNana.COM

  1. developing a program to simulate processor behaviour, and
  2. performing some experiments which highlight the behaviour of various architectural features when fed suitable example programs.

The ideal simulator should eventually model a processor that includes a register file, several types of pipelined execution unit (i.e., an integer arithmetic unit, a load-store unit and a branch unit), an instruction decode/issue unit employing issue-bound operand fetch, a re-order bu er handling consistency and re-naming, a means of branch prediction. CourseNana.COM

Writing this simulator is essentially a \mini" project which will allow you to get a deeper understanding of rst half of the unit. Other important things you need to know: CourseNana.COM

  1. There is no prescribed language for implementation; some students prefer to use the language they are most familiar with (e.g., C or Java), other students prefer a language which o ers features that are speci cally useful (e.g., occam). The one important caveat to this is that assessment will take place using a computer from the CS lab; your code needs to compile cleanly using only standard tools (e.g., GCC) available on such a computer.
  2. The marking scheme is biased toward learning about concepts rather than a programming exercise: although the implementation is important, you should treat it as a tool to support the realgoal of investigating superscalar processors.
  3. Many of the stages are \open": there could be many possible aspects of a given problem to investigate, and many valid ways to construct solutions. In these cases, the marking scheme is biased toward you being inventive: where there is some debate about the right way to proceed, the assignment demands you make an informed design decision yourself and back it up with a reasonable argument.

    2 Submission and Marking

    The assignment is presented in a number of stages which are roughly arranged in order of diculty. You shouldn't necessarily expect to complete all stages. Remember that on one hand you may be able to complete some of the later stages without completing the earlier ones, but on the other hand some earlier stages are intentionally included as \stepping stones" to guide you toward a nal solution. Some stages may be denoted \extra" and should only be attempted when you have completed all others: they are intended for those of you who are aiming for the top marks bracket or want to attempt more advanced work. CourseNana.COM

You will submit your coursework in two parts, an interim submission half way through the course, and a nal submission at the end of the course. The interim submission will not itself be marked, but we will give you feedback based on this submission that should enable you to achieve a higher mark compared to just submitting everything at the end of the course. CourseNana.COM

Marking of the nal submission will be predominantly via a single 15 minute presentation at the end of the course. This should be notionally divided into 10 minutes of actual presentation and 5 minutes to demonstrate your simulator and answer questions. This has some nice advantages: CourseNana.COM

  1. The assignment is a challenge to complete and hence a challenge for us to understand and mark. By using a more interactive form of marking we can better understand exactly what you have achieved and give you more direct and personalised feedback.
  2. Being able to demonstrate your simulator (rather than simply submit it) means you can be sure the quality of your implementation work is taken into account.

Although the assignment content means an exact marking scheme is difficult, we expect to allocate marks from three rough categories: 1/3 of the marks for the features in your simulator and their complexity (i.e., which features of the processor you model). 1/3 of the marks for the quality and reasoning associated with results ob- tained from experiments undertaken with your simulator. 1/3 of the marks for the presentation quality (e.g., clarity of explanation, an- swers to questions). CourseNana.COM

The time and date of presentations will be arranged after the submission dead- line; we expect this to be after TB2 has nished) so we will have to manage potential conflicts with the exam period. You should submit your work via the "Assessment, submission and feedback" unit page on Blackboard. Forboth the interim and final submissions you should submit: CourseNana.COM

  1. All source code for your simulator and any auxiliary les which you think are important (e.g., example inputs and outputs). Note that: You should ideally submit unarchived source code; if this is not pos- sible, submit a single ZIP archive called source.zip . The source code should compile cleanly and be tested using the de- fault set of software tools (e.g., GCC) available in the CS lab. You should include a single le called readme.txt (and a Makefile or equivalent) that contains detailed instructions for compilation and execution of the simulator. CourseNana.COM

  2. A set of PDF slides (i.e., no PowerPoint or OpenOce documents) called slides.pdf which describe what you have done. For the nal submission these will also form the basis for your presentation. For the nal presen- tation keep in mind that it should last 10 minutes. Your presentation's organisation should roughly follow: 1slide A diagram of the processor architecture your simulator models, including major components and relationships between them. 1slide A list of architectural and micro-architectural features that the processor models (e.g., number of execution units, method for branch prediction, support for register renaming); this should roughly de- scribe how far through the assignment you have progressed. 3slides To describe the experiments you undertook using the simulator, why you did them and what the outcomes were. CourseNana.COM

    3 Description

    For the interim submission you should complete up to Stage 3, Part 1, as listed below. For the nal submission you should then complete as much as you can up to the end of Stage 5. CourseNana.COM

This means that for your interim submission you should have a working, simple, non-scalar, non-pipelined simulator, with a simple instruction set, and a simple set of benchmarks with which to test your simulator. CourseNana.COM

Your interim submission should then be extended to form your nal submis- sion, making the processor more sophisticated by adding superscalar execution, branch prediction, out-of-order execution and so on. Your set of benchmarks should also be more comprehensive, as should the set of experiments you have run through your simulator. CourseNana.COM

Stage 1

The aim of this stage is to design an instruction set for your processor. On one hand, the less instructions you include the simpler your implementation is; on the other hand you need enough instructions to write interesting programs. It is crucial to be realistic about the operations and addressing modes you use. One way to ensure this is to base your choices on a much reduced subset of a RISC instruction set such as MIPS; in such an instruction set one would expect to nd: CourseNana.COM

  1. Instructions that perform arithmetic, comparisons and logic; for example you may opt to include: addto perform addition of two register operands, addi to perform addition of a register operand and an immediate operand, cmpto perform comparison of two register operands with each other (with the result being 1, 0 or +1 for less-than, equal-to or greater- than).
  2. Instructions that perform memory access; for example you may opt to include: ldto perform an indexed load from memory using a register operand as the base address and an immediate operand as the o set, ldcto load an immediate operand.
  3. Instructions that alter the control- ow, i.e., branches and jumps; for ex- ample you may opt to include: bto perform an absolute branch to an address provided as an imme- diate operand, jto perform a relative branch to an address provided as an immediate operand, blth to perform an absolute branch to an address provided as an immediate operand if one register operand is less-than another.

Note that if you have previously taken a unit in which you have designed an instruction set it will be tempting to use this as a starting point: beware that these may contain many features which you don't need for the ACA exercise, and that your simulator from said previous units will di er enough that starting from scratch (or at least reusing only selecting components) may be a better option for you. CourseNana.COM

Stage 2

Your next step should be to write several short benchmark programs using the instruction set de ned previously. Rather than a single \golden" benchmark that exercises every aspect of the processor perfectly, a better approach would be to use a suite of kernels that are representative of real-life workloads. A basic example would be a loop to perform vector addition: CourseNana.COM

for (int i = 0; i < 10; i++ ) {
a[i] = b[i] + c[i];

As such, one can check that various arithmetic, memory access and control- ow instructions work individually andin composition, and also evaluate perfor- mance based on how quickly the kernel is executed. Further kernels can be constructed by targeting speci c features in the processor, or by using using existing examples such as CourseNana.COM

standard kernels (e.g., the so-called \Livermore Loops" [1]), sorting algorithms (e.g., bubble sort or quick sort), numerical algorithms (e.g., GCD or Hamming weight), recursive algorithms (e.g., factorial). CourseNana.COM

Note that although there are no associated marks, it could be advantageous to write a simple assembler to translate your benchmark programs from a human writable assembly language into a machine readable (i.e., encoded) form. Since instruction encoding and decoding mechanisms are not the main thrust of this assignment however, one might proceed in other ways. For example, it is accept- able to represent the programs as an array of structures where each structure instance represents an instruction containing explicit opcode and operand elds. CourseNana.COM

Also note that benchmark kernels should not be confused with test kernels. The former are used to demonstrate that certain performance-enhancing features of your processor's architecture are working { for example you can demonstrate superscalar instruction issue or improved branching performance with the ad- dition of a branch prediction mechanism. Test kernels are for your own use and will just help you get your simulator working. Of course these are a good idea but they should not be presented as part of your report. CourseNana.COM

Stage 3

Once you have an instruction set and some programs in a machine readable form, you can start to construct a simple processor simulator to execute them. The best way to proceed is to start with a simple simulator and extend it with more and more features, testing that it executes your benchmark programs correctly after each step: CourseNana.COM

  1. Write a simulator for a non-pipelined, scalar processor which executes instructions in-order; this is essentially a loop which iterates through fetch- decode-execute steps using a program counter, and using a register le and (single) ALU as appropriate. You can assume the processor uses a \Harvard" memory hierarchy whereby data and instructions are accessed via separate, simple interfaces to memory: you do not need to consider cache memories.
  2. Pipeline your initial simulator so that the fetch-decode-execute steps can be carried out in parallel for di erent in- ight instructions. This demands that you model a clock to advance the pipeline, and the pipeline registers that hold partially executed instructions. At this stage you can ignore the problem of dependencies and hazards (i.e., assume the programmer avoids them).
  3. Duplicate the execution stage so that your simulation now has several execution units (e.g., two integer ALUs, a load-store unit and and branch unit). You do not need to model the internals of the execution units (e.g., model the actual circuit for addition or multiplication), and can ignore the reservation stations at this stage and use blocking issue. Note that although a valid rst step would be to assume each execution unit has some xed latency, a more reasonable approach would be to use sub-pipelining. Some students prefer to take an \object oriented" approach to their simula- tor by de ning classes to represent the various components (e.g., register le, reservation stations and so on) in the processor. This is not a requirement and certainly not the only option, but can make the resulting program more modu- lar and easier to understand and develop. For each component in the processor state it is useful to de ne a \current" value (at the start of each simulation cycle), a \next" value (by the end of each simulation cycle).

The behaviour of each component can then be modelled by a function which, when called, derives the \next" value from the \current" value. The simulation advances one cycle at a time, by calling all of the functions which model the component behaviours. When they have all been called, it copies the \next" values into the \current" values and is then ready to repeat the process by performing the next simulation cycle. CourseNana.COM

It may be helpful to provide a method to single-step the simulation in an interactively manner, displaying all of the state on the screen at each step. This is similar to how a debugger works on a real-life processor, and enables you to inspect and debug the simulator based on program and processor behaviour. You should make sure that your simulator outputs useful metrics, such as: CourseNana.COM

  1. the number of instructions executed,
  2. the number of cycles taken for the whole run,
  3. the number of instructions per cycle (to a sensible number of decimal places),
  4. anything else useful/interesting relevant, such as correct branch prediction rate etc.

    Stage 4

    At this stage you should have a simulator that can execute \valid" programs (in the sense that they respect any potential hazards) and takes advantage of multiple execution units. However, many features of a real superscalar processor which permit high-performance are still missing. The goal of the next stage is to implement such features. This is a deliberately open question as there are many potential features you could include. As examples you might opt to: CourseNana.COM

  5. add a mechanism for branch prediction or predicated execution,
  6. add reservation stations and non-blocking issue,
  7. add a re-order bu er,
  8. add register re-naming (using the re-order bu er),
  9. include an execution unit that supports vector instructions.

    Stage 5

    The final stage is to conduct some well reasoned experiments with the simulator and benchmark programs you have developed. The aim is to construct a series of \hypothesis, experiment, result" type statements which exercise your simulator in di erent ways and empirically demonstrate the bene t of speci c features. Some of the marks associated with this stage are related to the formulation, number and sophistication of your experiments; a contrived example of what might be expected is: CourseNana.COM

Hypothesis The branch prediction method Xas implemented in my simulator is e ective enough to deliver performance for a loop which is within A% of the unrolled loop. CourseNana.COM

Experiment I wrote a program Bto perform an iterated vector addition, and another program Cwhich unrolled the loop for a value of n= 100. I ran both programs on my simulator and counted the number of cycles taken to execute them; this was averaged over mexecutions to take into account the non-deterministic nature of the branch prediction method. CourseNana.COM

Result The average number of branch mispredictions for BwasEwhich rep- resents a misprediction ratio of F; this resulted in an average cycle count ofGandHwith and without branch prediction and Ifor the unrolled loopC. Within these examples I recorded completion rates of Jand Kinstructions per cycle for BandLinstructions per cycle for Cwhich demonstrates that better use of the execution units is achieved. Hence we can conclude that the branch predictor is e ective: Gis better than H and within A% ofI. CourseNana.COM


[1] F.H. McMahon. The Livermore Fortran Kernels: A Computer Test Of The Numerical Performance Range. Technical Report UCRL-53745, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 1986. CourseNana.COM

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