Setting The Memory Controller Free From Managing DRAM Maintenance Ops (ETH Zurich)


A new technical paper titled “A Case for Self-Managing DRAM Chips: Improving Performance, Efficiency, Reliability, and Security via Autonomous in-DRAM Maintenance Operations” was published by researchers at ETH Zurich.

“The rigid interface of current DRAM chips places the memory controller completely in charge of DRAM control. Even DRAM maintenance operations, which are used to ensure correct operation (e.g., refresh) and combat reliability/security issues of DRAM (e.g., RowHammer), are managed by the memory controller. Thus, implementing new maintenance operations or modifying the existing ones often require difficult-to-realize changes in the DRAM interface, memory controller, and potentially other system components (e.g., system software), leading to slow progress in DRAM-based systems.

In this paper, our goal is to 1) ease the process of enabling new DRAM maintenance operations and 2) enable more efficient in-DRAM maintenance operations. Our idea is to set the memory controller free from managing DRAM maintenance. To this end, we propose Self-Managing DRAM (SMD), a new low-cost DRAM architecture that enables implementing new in-DRAM maintenance mechanisms (or modifying old ones) with no further changes in the DRAM interface, memory controller, or other system components. We use SMD to implement new in-DRAM maintenance mechanisms for three use cases: 1) periodic refresh, 2) RowHammer protection, and 3) memory scrubbing. Our evaluations show that SMD-based maintenance operations significantly improve the system performance and energy efficiency while providing higher reliability compared to conventional DDR4 DRAM. A combination of SMD-based maintenance mechanisms that perform refresh, RowHammer protection, and memory scrubbing achieve 7.6% speedup and consume 5.2% less DRAM energy on average across 20 memory-intensive four-core workloads.”

Find the technical paper here. Published July 2022. 

Authors: Hasan Hassan, Ataberk Olgun, A. Giray Yaglikci, Haocong Luo, Onur Mutlu.
Citation: arXiv:2207.13358v1

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