Chip Multiprocessing and the Cell Broadband Engine

Chip multiprocessing has become an exciting new direction for system designers to deliver increased performance by exploiting CMOS scaling. We discuss key design decisions facing the system architect of a chip multiprocessor and describe how these choices were made in the design of the Cell Broadband Engine.

An important decision is whether to base system performance on thread-level parallelism alone, or to complement thread-level parallelism with other forms of parallelism. Depending on workload characteristics, providing parallelism at the processor core level may increase overall system efficiency.

Parallelism is also a key to utilize available memory bandwidth more efficiently, by overlapping and interleaving multiple accesses to system memory. By interleaving the access streams of multiple threads, memory level parallelism can be increased to allow better memory interface utilization. In addition, compute-transfer parallelism (CTP) offers a new form of parallelism to initiate memory transfers under software control without stalling the requesting thread.

We describe how the Cell Broadband EngineTM uses parallelism at all levels of the system abstraction to deliver a quantum leap in application performance, and how the Cell Synergistic Memory Flow engine exploits compute-transfer level parallelism by providing efficient block transfer capabilities.

By: Michael Gschwind

Published in: RC23921 in 2006


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