Dissertation Defense

Customizing the Computation Capabilities of Microprocessors

Nathan T. Clark

Consumers will always demand more performance from their computer
systems. Real-time ray tracing and speech recognition are just two of
the many compelling applications that remain outside of the
computational capabilities of current computers. Recently, however,
the traditional method of attaining performance through higher
processor clock frequencies has driven power consumption to a point
where it is too expensive to cool the processors. This trend,
known as the Power Wall, has led to a focus on computational
efficiency (getting the most work out of each joule) as a key metric
in computer system designs.

This talk will describe some of my work on making computation more efficient by customizing processors. First, I will present the design of a novel accelerator specifically targeted to execute the most common computation patterns from a wide range of applications. Next, I will describe a virtualization technique to make integrating the accelerator into computer systems as cost-effective as possible. Finally, I will demonstrate how the accelerator design and virtualization ideas generalize to a much broader set of accelerators, and discuss some preliminary results and future directions in this area.

Sponsored by

S. Mahlke