Google Research

NeuroMeter: An Integrated Power, Area, and Timing Modeling Framework for Machine Learning Accelerators

  • Tianqi Tang
  • Sheng Li
  • Lifeng Nai
  • Norm Jouppi
  • Yuan Xie
International Symposium on High-Performance Computer Architecture (2021)


Abstract—As Machine Learning (ML) becomes pervasive in the era of artificial intelligence, ML specific tools and frameworks are required for architectural research. This paper introduces NeuroMeter, an integrated power, area, and timing modeling framework for ML accelerators. NeuroMeter models the detailed architecture of ML accelerators and generates a fast and accurate estimation on power, area, and chip timing. Meanwhile, it also enables the runtime analysis of system-level performance and efficiency when the runtime activity factors are provided. NeuroMeter’s micro-architecture model includes fundamental components of ML accelerators, including systolic array based tensor units (TU), reduction trees (RT), and 1D vector units (VU). NeuroMeter has accurate modeling results, with the average power and area estimation errors below 10% and 17% respectively when validated against TPU-v1, TPU-v2, and Eyeriss.

Leveraging the NeuroMeter’s new capabilities on architecting manycore ML accelerators, this paper presents the first in-depth study on the design space and tradeoffs of “Brawny and Wimpy” inference accelerators in datacenter scenarios with the insights that are otherwise difficult to discover without NeuroMeter. Our study shows that brawny designs with 64x64 systolic arrays are the most performant and efficient for inference tasks in the 28nm datacenter architectural space with a 500mm2 die area budget. Our study also reveals important tradeoffs between performance and efficiency. For datacenter accelerators with low batch inference, a small (∼16%) sacrifice of system performance (in achieved Tera operations per Second, aka TOPS) can lead to more than a 2x efficiency improvement (in achieved TOPS/TCO). To showcase NeuroMeter’s capability to model a wide range of diverse ML accelerator architectures, we also conduct a follow-on mini-case study on implications of sparsity on different ML accelerators, demonstrating wimpier accelerator architectures benefit more readily from sparsity processing despite their lower achievable raw energy efficiency.

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