Article Accepted in IEEE Transactions on Computers

Manil Dev Gomony just had a journal article entitled “A Globally Arbitrated Memory Tree for Mixed-Time-Criticality Systems” accepted in the high-impact journal IEEE Transactions on Computers. This article extends a conference paper published at DATE in 2015 that was called “A Generic, Scalable and Globally Arbitrated Memory Tree for Shared DRAM Access in Real-Time Systems” that was published in collaboration with Jamie Garside and Neil Audsley from University of York. The original paper explained the design and efficient hardware implementation of a transaction arbiter for real-time systems that could be configured to behave like any of five well-known arbiters, i.e. TDM, Round Robin, Credit-Controlled Static Priority, Priority-Based Scheduler, and Frame-Based Static Priority. The key feature of the arbiter is that it is distributed, which means that accounting and enforcement is not done in a single centralized location, allowing it to scale to systems with many resource clients without negatively impacting the maximum frequency at which it operates.

The journal article extends the original conference paper by adding more detail and examples on the design of the memory tree, as well as improving positioning. However, it also extends the scope of the work to consider more complex Mixed-Time-Criticality systems where some clients are more concerned about average-case than worst-case performance. It also considers that the requirements of the clients may be diverse, i.e. that some may have high bandwidth requirements and are latency-tolerant, while others have low bandwidth requirements, but are latency-critical. This is diversity of requirements is addressed by showing how the memory tree supports the transaction arbiter to be chosen individually per client rather than once for the entire system. For example, some real-time clients may be configured by non-work-conserving TDM arbitration to get predictable bandwidth and latency while enjoying complete temporal isolation from other clients, which simplifies integration and certification. Other clients sharing the same resource, may be scheduled using e.g. using a work-conserving Frame-Based Static Priority scheduler to reflect an interest in low average latency while still distinguishing their relative latency-sensitivity. The memory tree supports any combination of the mechanisms discussed above, but we provide a formal analysis of the mixed arbitration algorithm explained above. The article demonstrates the benefits of this approach on a VHDL hardware implementation, as well as its cost in terms of area and power compared to centralized non-mixed arbitration policies by means of ASIC synthesis.

New Book Available for Pre-order

Our new book “Memory Controllers for Mixed-Time-Criticality Systems: Architectures, Methodologies and Trade-offs” is now available for pre-order at Springer. The book is based on the excellent PhD thesis of Sven Goossens and discusses the design and FPGA implementation of a real-time memory controller for mixed-criticality systems. The controller can provide complete temporal isolation to its clients as well as hard bounds on the worst-case response time of transactions and the bandwidth offered by the memory. In addition, it provides competitive average-case performance for soft real-time and best-effort applications using a conservative open-page policy. The design is highly configurable and the book carefully quantifies the trade-offs between bandwidth, response time, and power that this enables. To facilitate the discussion about power, the book also presents the power model that came out of the PhD dissertation of Karthik Chandrasekar and gives an up-to-date description of the open-source DRAMPower tool that implements it.

Update: The contents of the book are now available on SpringerLink

Sven Goossens Successfully Defended Dissertation

After successfully defending his dissertation “A Reconfigurable Mixed-Time-Criticality SDRAM Controller“, Sven Goossens earned himself a PhD degree and the right to call himself a doctor. The work proposes a pattern-based SDRAM controller targeting mixed-time-criticality systems, i.e. systems where some memory clients need firm worst-case guarantees on bandwidth and latency, while other clients only care about average-case performance. A new memory controller architecture is designed to address this mix of requirements and it is implemented both as a cycle-accurate SystemC simulation model and as synthesizable RTL code for generating FPGA instances. A unique feature of this memory controller is its conservative open-page policy that leaves rows open in the memory banks as long as possible to exploit locality and boost average-case performance, but closes them just in time to avoid reducing the worst-case performance.

The work also parameterizes the concept of memory patterns by allowing the number of banks and the number of bursts per bank to be chosen when the patterns are generated. This allows patterns with different degrees of bank-level parallelism to be created for six different generations of DRAM for any request size, enabling the user to make a trade-off between worst-case bandwidth, worst-case response time, and power consumption. To generate efficient memory patterns, the work proposes an integer linear programming formulation that provides optimal patterns, as well as a near-optimal heuristic that runs in a fraction of the time. In addition to generating predictable memory patterns that provide bounded bandwidth and execution times, composable read and write patterns can be generated with negligible performance loss. These patterns have equal length and can be used to provide complete temporal isolation between memory clients when combined with a non-work-conserving Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) arbiter in the front-end. The memory patterns are generated offline at design time, but are programmed at run-time when the memory controller is initialized. Lastly, the proposed controller supports run-time reconfiguration of its TDM arbiter, allowing it to be safely reprogrammed when applications dynamically start and stop at run-time without sacrificing the worst-case guarantees of applications that keep running.

I would like to thank Sven for the five years of hard work. It has been a pleasure to work with such a versatile and independent young researcher who seems to be succesful at whatever he attempts, be it design, analysis, writing papers, or hardware/software implementation in more or lesss any language. He has also been an excellent member of the Memory Team and the larger CompSoC Team, never passing on an opportunity to use his skills to support other members of the team. At the end of January, Sven starts his new career with Intrinsic-ID in Eindhoven. We wish him the best of luck with his new job and hope to stay in touch.

Three Presentations at ESWEEK

The Embedded Systems Week kicks off next week in Montreal, Canada. Two of my students will be giving a total of three presentations, which may be interesting for those following my work. First, Sven Goossens will be presenting his CODES+ISSS paper “A Reconfigurable Real-Time SDRAM Controller for Mixed Time-Criticality Systems” on Monday September 30 10:30 – 11:00. On Thursday October 3, approximately, 09:50 – 10:10, he will also summarize all of his work on memory controllers for mixed time-criticality systems in an invited presentation entitled “A Mixed Time-Criticality SDRAM Controller” at the Memory Architecture and Organization Workshop (MeAOW). At almost the same time, October 3 10:00 – 10:30, Davit Mirzoyan will present his paper “Throughput Analysis and Voltage-Frequency Island Partitioning for Streaming Applications under Process Variation” at the Symposium on Embedded Systems for Real-Time Multimedia (ESTIMedia). We hope to see you there!

Accepted Paper at CODES/ISSS 2013

Our paper “A Reconfigurable Real-Time SDRAM Controller for Mixed Time-Criticality Systems” has been accepted at CODES/ISSS 2013. The paper is first-authored by Sven Goossens and builds on the work of Jasper Kuijsten, a graduated master student from the Memory Team. In this paper, we present a new architecture of our real-time memory controller that supports predictable and composable run-time reconfiguration on use-case transitions, which allows trade-offs between guaranteed bandwidth, response time and power. It also presents a methodology for offering composable service to memory clients by means of composable memory patterns, an extension to our existing pattern-based approach. Lastly, a reconfigurable Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) arbiter and an associated reconfiguration protocol are proposed. The TDM slot allocations can be changed at run time, while the predictable and composable performance guarantees offered to active memory clients are unaffected by the reconfiguration. The SDRAM controller has been implemented as a TLM-level SystemC model, and in synthesizable VHDL for use on an FPGA platform.

Memory Team Scores Four out of Four Accepted Papers at DATE 2013!

The preliminary author notification for DATE 2013 is now available on the conference website and it reveals that the memory team scores an incredible four accepted papers out of the four submitted, resulting in an acceptance ratio of 100% for the team! The four paper titles are:

The papers cover topics ranging from memory controller architectures, configuration, and power modeling for Wide I/O memories to open-page policies in real-time memory controllers and a comparison between the tightness of bounds for the latency-rate abstraction and cycle-accurate simulation. These papers are also evidence of the many recent successful collaborations as there are authors from CISTER-ISEP Research Unit, Fortiss, and the Technical Universities in Eindhoven, Kaiserslautern and Munich.