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Grant Ayers

Grant Ayers

Grant is a software engineer at Google. His interests include computer architecture, security, and accelerators. He joined Google after graduating from Stanford with a Ph.D. in Computer Science.
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    CRISP: Critical Slice Prefetching
    Heiner Litz
    Proceedings of the 27th ACM International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS) (2022), pp. 300-313
    Preview abstract The high access latency of DRAM continues to be a performance challenge for contemporary microprocessor systems. Prefetching is a well-established technique to address this problem, however, existing implemented designs fail to provide any performance benefits in the presence of irregular memory access patterns. The hardware complexity of prior techniques that can predict irregular memory accesses such as runahead execution has proven untenable for implementation in real hardware. We propose a lightweight mechanism to hide the high latency of irregular memory access patterns by leveraging criticality-based scheduling. In particular, our technique executes delinquent loads and their load slices as early as possible, hiding a significant fraction of their latency. Furthermore, we observe that the latency induced by branch mispredictions and other high latency instructions can be hidden with a similar approach. Our proposal only requires minimal hardware modifications by performing memory access classification, load and branch slice extraction, as well as priority analysis exclusively in software. As a result, our technique is feasible to implement, introducing only a simple new instruction prefix while requiring minimal modifications of the instruction scheduler. Our technique increases the IPC of memory-latency-bound applications by up to 38% and by 8.4% on average. View details
    APT-GET: Profile-guided Timely Software Prefetching
    Saba Jamilan
    Tanvir Ahmed Khan
    Baris Kasikci
    Heiner Litz
    The European Conference on Computer Systems, Association for Computing Machinery, https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3492321.3519583 (2022), pp. 747-764
    Preview abstract Prefetching which predicts future memory accesses and preloads them from main memory, is a widely-adopted technique to overcome the processor-memory performance gap. Unfortunately, hardware prefetchers implemented in today's processors cannot identify complex and irregular memory access patterns exhibited by modern data-driven applications and hence developers need to rely on software prefetching techniques. We investigate the challenges of enabling effective, automated software data prefetching. Our investigation reveals that the state-of-the-art compiler-based prefetching mechanism falls short in achieving high performance due to its static nature. Based on this insight, we design APT-GET, a novel profile-guided technique that ensures prefetch timeliness by leveraging dynamic execution time information. APT-GET leverages efficient hardware support such as Intel's Last Branch Record (LBR), for collecting application execution profiles with negligible overhead to characterize the execution time of loads. APT-GET then introduces a novel analytical model to find the optimal prefetch-distance and prefetch injection site based on the collected profile to enable timely prefetches. We study APT-GET in the context of 10 real-world applications and demonstrate that it achieves a speedup of up to 1.98× and of 1.30× on average. By ensuring prefetch timeliness, APT-GET improves the performance by 1.25× over the state-of-the-art software data prefetching mechanism. View details
    Classifying Memory Access Patterns for Prefetching
    Heiner Litz
    Christos Kozyrakis
    Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems, Association for Computing Machinery (2020), 513–526
    Preview abstract Prefetching is a well-studied technique for addressing the memory access stall time of contemporary microprocessors. However, despite a large body of related work, the memory access behavior of applications is not well understood, and it remains difficult to predict whether a particular application will benefit from a given prefetcher technique. In this work we propose a novel methodology to classify the memory access patterns of applications, enabling well-informed reasoning about the applicability of a certain prefetcher. Our approach leverages instruction dataflow information to uncover a wide range of access patterns, including arbitrary combinations of offsets and indirection. These combinations or prefetch kernels represent reuse, strides, reference locality, and complex address generation. By determining the complexity and frequency of these access patterns, we enable reasoning about prefetcher timeliness and criticality, exposing the limitations of existing prefetchers today. Moreover, using these kernels, we are able to compute the next address for the majority of top-missing instructions, and we propose a software prefetch injection methodology that is able to outperform state-of-the-art hardware prefetchers. View details
    AsmDB: Understanding and Mitigating Front-End Stalls in Warehouse-Scale Computers
    Nayana Prasad Nagendra
    David I. August
    Christos Kozyrakis
    Trivikram Krishnamurthy
    Heiner Litz
    International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) (2019)
    Preview abstract The large instruction working sets of private and public cloud workloads lead to frequent instruction cache misses and costs in the millions of dollars. While prior work has identified the growing importance of this problem, to date, there has been little analysis of where the misses come from, and what the opportunities are to improve them. To address this challenge, this paper makes three contributions. First, we present the design and deployment of a new, always-on, fleet-wide monitoring system, AsmDB, that tracks front-end bottlenecks. AsmDB uses hardware support to collect bursty execution traces, fleet-wide temporal and spatial sampling, and sophisticated offline post-processing to construct full-program dynamic control-flow graphs. Second, based on a longitudinal analysis of AsmDB data from real-world online services, we present two detailed insights on the sources of front-end stalls: (1) cold code that is brought in along with hot code leads to significant cache fragmentation and a corresponding large number of instruction cache misses; (2) distant branches and calls that are not amenable to traditional cache locality or next-line prefetching strategies account for a large fraction of cache misses. Third, we prototype two optimizations that target these insights. For misses caused by fragmentation, we focus on memcmp, one of the hottest functions contributing to cache misses, and show how fine-grained layout optimizations lead to significant benefits. For misses at the targets of distant jumps, we propose new hardware support for software code prefetching and prototype a new feedback-directed compiler optimization that combines static program flow analysis with dynamic miss profiles to demonstrate significant benefits for several large warehouse-scale workloads. Improving upon prior work, our proposal avoids invasive hardware modifications by prefetching via software in an efficient and scalable way. Simulation results show that such an approach can eliminate up to 96% of instruction cache misses with negligible overheads. View details
    Preview abstract The explosion in workload complexity and the recent slow-down in Moore's law scaling call for new approaches towards efficient computing. Researchers are now beginning to use recent advances in machine learning in software optimizations, augmenting or replacing traditional heuristics and data structures. However, the space of machine learning for computer hardware architecture is only lightly explored. In this paper, we demonstrate the potential of deep learning to address the von Neumann bottleneck of memory performance. We focus on the critical problem of learning memory access patterns, with the goal of constructing accurate and efficient memory prefetchers. We relate contemporary prefetching strategies to n-gram models in natural language processing, and show how recurrent neural networks can serve as a drop-in replacement. On a suite of challenging benchmark datasets, we find that neural networks consistently demonstrate superior performance in terms of precision and recall. This work represents the first step towards practical neural-network based prefetching, and opens a wide range of exciting directions for machine learning in computer architecture research. View details
    Memory Hierarchy for Web Search
    Jung Ho Ahn
    Christos Kozyrakis
    International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture (HPCA) (2018)
    Preview abstract Online data-intensive services, such as search, serve billions of users, utilize millions of cores, and comprise a significant and growing portion of datacenter-scale workloads. However, the complexity of these workloads and their proprietary nature has precluded detailed architectural evaluations and optimizations of processor design trade-offs. We present the first detailed study of the memory hierarchy for the largest commercial search engine today. We use a combination of measurements from longitudinal studies across tens of thousands of deployed servers, systematic microarchitectural evaluation on individual platforms, validated trace-driven simulation, and performance modeling – all driven by production workloads servicing real-world user requests. Our data quantifies significant differences between production search and benchmarks commonly used in the architecture community. We identify the memory hierarchy as an important opportunity for performance optimization, and present new insights pertaining to how search stresses the cache hierarchy, both for instructions and data. We show that, contrary to conventional wisdom, there is significant reuse of data that is not captured by current cache hierarchies, and discuss why this precludes state-of-the-art tiled and scale-out architectures. Based on these insights, we rethink a new cache hierarchy optimized for search that trades off the inefficient use of L3 cache transistors for higher-performance cores, and adds a latency-optimized on-package eDRAM L4 cache. Compared to state-of-the-art processors, our proposed design performs 27% to 38% better. View details
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