MICRO 2014
Conference paper

Voltage Noise in Multi-Core Processors: Empirical Characterization and Optimization Opportunities

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Voltage noise characterization is an essential aspect of optimizing the shipped voltage of high-end processor based systems. Voltage noise, i.e. Variations in the supply voltage due to transient fluctuations on current, can negatively affect the robustness of the design if it is not properly characterized. Modeling and estimation of voltage noise in a pre-silicon setting is typically inadequate because it is difficult to model the chip/system packaging and power distribution network (PDN) parameters very precisely. Therefore, a systematic, direct measurement-based characterization of voltage noise in a post-silicon setting is mandatory in validating the robustness of the design. In this paper, we present a direct measurement-based voltage noise characterization of a state-of-the-art mainframe class multicoreprocessor. We develop a systematic methodology to generate noise stress marks. We study the sensitivity of noise in relation to the different parameters involved in noise generation: (a) stimulus sequence frequency, (b) supply current delta, (c) number of noise events and, (d) degree of alignment or synchronization of events in a multi-core context. By sensing per-core noise in amulti-core chip, we characterize the noise propagation across the cores. This insight opens up new opportunities for noise mitigation via workload mappings and dynamic voltage guard banding.