Proceedings of the IEEE

Mitigating memory wall effects in high-clock-rate and multicore CMOS 3-D processor memory stacks

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Three-dimensional chip (3-D) stacking technology provides a new approach to address the so-called memory wall problem. Memory processor chip stacking reduces this memory wall problem, permitting faster clock rates (with suitable processor logic) or permitting multicore access to shared memory using a large number of vertical vias between tiers in the stack, for ultrawide bit path transfer of data and address information to and from various levels of cache. Although a limited amount of parallel access is possible using conventional two-dimensional (2-D) chip memory-processor approaches, 3-D memory-processor stacking greatly extends this to much larger capacity memories. We evaluate high-clock-rate processors as well as shared memory processors with a large number of cores. Various architectural design options to reduce the impact of the memory wall on the processor performance are explored and validated through simulations. Certain architectural features can be implemented in a 3-D chip, such as an ultrawide, ultrashort vertical bus with low parasitic resistance and the elimination of conventional electrostatic discharge, and packaging parasitics required in multiple package 2-D solutions. The objective is to reduce the clocks per instruction figure of merit for high clock speeds in order to deliver significant performance levels. High-clock-rate processors can be designed with SiGe heterostructure bipolar transistors to obtain processors operating on the order of 16 or 32 GHz. © 2006 IEEE.