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Drowsy Caches: Simple Techniques for Reducing Leakage Power

Authored on: Dec 12, 2003 by Krisztian Flautner, Nam Sung Kim, Steve Martin, David Blaauw, and Trevor Mudge

Technical Paper

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On-chip caches represent a sizable fraction of the total power consumption of microprocessors. Although large caches can significantly improve performance, they have the potential to increase power consumption. As feature sizes shrink, the dominant component of this power loss will be leakage. However, during a fixed period of time the activity in a cache is only centered on a small subset of the lines. This behavior can be exploited to cut the leakage power of large caches by putting the cold cache lines into a state preserving, low-power drowsy mode. Moving lines into and out of drowsy state incurs a slight performance loss. In this paper we investigate policies and circuit techniques for implementing drowsy caches. We show that with simple architectural techniques, about 80%-90% of the cache lines can be maintained in a drowsy state without affecting performance by more than 1%. According to our projections, in a 0.07µm CMOS process, drowsy caches will be able to reduce the total energy (static and dynamic) consumed in the caches by 50%-75%. We also argue that the use of drowsy caches can simplify the design and control of lowleakage caches, and avoid the need to completely turn off selected cache lines and lose their state.

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