ECE 382N, Spring 2000
Y. N. Patt, M. D. Brown
January 19, 2000
Instructor: Y. N. Patt, 541a ENS. Telephone: 471-4085, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TA: Mary Brown, 532 ENS Building, Telephone: 471-6814, or email@example.com.
Class meets: 5 to 6:30 pm, MW, in 126 ENS. Discussion Section: Tuesday,
5 to 6:30pm in 126 ENS. (I will
sometimes teach all three days (MTW) in a lecture/discussion format. Please do not sign up for this course
unless you are able to make all three class meetings each week.)
Objectives of the course:
EE 382N is intended to provide a solid introduction to microarchitecture
to the serious graduate student who is
interested either in PhD research in microarchitecture or an industrial position on a leading edge
microarchitecture project. We expect to do that in two ways:
(1) Each student will participate as a member of a design team to complete
a substantial design of a cpu for a
subset of a commercially available modern microprocessor. We will use Intel's IA 32 (nee x86) ISA as our
starting point. Each team will start with a clean sheet of paper and will design the data path, microsequencer,
microprogrammed or hardwired control, microcode or logic, as appropriate, interface to memory and I/O, and the
selection and interconnection of parts to implement all of the above. The design will be done at the logic gate
level, in structural level Verilog where the design will be concerned with timing issues (propagation delay, cycle
time). The design may be an aggressive pipeline, or a more conservative microarchitecture, at the discretion of
the design team. Our expectation is that each student will come out of this experience more fully appreciating
the problems that come up in designing the microarchitecture of a general purpose ISA.
(2) Lectures, in addition to dealing with design issues relevant to
the project, will provide in depth coverage of
the latest hot topics in high performance microarchitecture, and an awareness and appreciation of the field of
computer architecture, particularly alternative design styles and implementation tradeoffs. We will deal with
problems involving instruction supply, data supply, and instruction processing, compile-time vs. run-time
tradeoffs, very aggressive branch prediction, wide-issue processors, in-order vs. out-of-order execution, instruction
retirement. Case studies will be taken mostly from current microprocessors, although we may examine (as time
allows) a classical older implementation.
Relevance of the course.
This course provides a fundamental body of knowledge useful to graduate
students who plan to do PhD research
in microarchitecture or who plan to seek employment in the microprocessor industry upon completion of their
With respect to PhD research, several major IEEE and ACM conferences
deal specifically with research results
from this field, including ISCA, ASPLOS, Micro-n, HPCA, and PACT. Several prestigious journals publish
research based on the foundation material taught in this course. There does not appear to be any lessening of
interest in this material in the research community.
With respect to the microprocessor industry, companies seek graduates who have the insights acquired from this
course. Many major employers of our graduates (Intel, for example) have an increasing need for graduates who
have these insights.
Where I am coming from.
An outline of some of the topics we will cover is included below. We
will undoubtedly not get to all of them
for several reasons: (1) there is too much here to cover in one semester. (2) "covering" the material is not
something I particularly aspire to. Furthermore, we will probably not cover the topics in the order listed in the
outline, regardless how much I plan to.
My objective in our class meetings is to explore ideas that will be
useful to your future research and/or your
future work in industry. My view of research is that if you know the outcome before you start the project, then I
am not interested in the work as "research." I suspect that many of our class meetings will follow some
unintended path as we explore dynamically some issue that comes up. I want you to think critically about what
you read, and explore creatively what might be possible. If that causes us to spend three times as long on a topic
as we might otherwise if we covered the topic from my notes, it will not make me unhappy. If we get the
material from my notes to yours without going through the brains of either of us, that will make me very
Lest you think this is intended to encourage wild-eyed departures from
fundamental knowledge, let me assure
you that the one thing we always do is tie things to the fundamentals. My hope is to encourage you to combine
mastery of the fundamentals, critical reading and analysis, and creative thinking.
CAD Tools: For the project, we will be using a modern set of
CAD design tools, provided by Synopsys, which
use the Verilog design language. We have put together sufficient introductory material and examples to help you
get started with these tools. Mastery of the tools is not an end in itself; on the contrary, the tools are expected to
be a means to enhance your productivity in completing the project. You are encouraged to help each other
master the tools, so that we can all get on with the business of carrying out our designs.
Prerequisites: Satisfactory completion of courses covering the material of 319K and 360N.
Caveat: My experience from teaching this course has been that
the design project requires a much larger amount
of time to complete than most students expect to be the case in the beginning. If this semester goes as the ones
before it, you will be pleased with what you have accomplished after the term is over. But during the term,
sometimes after a few consecutive sleepless nights, you may wonder what lapse in sanity caused you to sign up.
Please consider this as you organize your workload for the semester.
Grading: Three items will contribute to your grade in this course:
the design project, scores on the two mid-term
exams, and homework and problem sets. They will be weighted, approximately as follows:
homework, problem sets, etc., 10%
Office hours: MTW right after class, plus other times as you need them.
There is no required text. References will be suggested where appropriate, depending on the topic. I expect to
provide handouts on additional material. Also, several of the lectures will use transparencies. In those cases, you
will be provided with copies of the transparencies.
In addition, you will be provided with a copy of Intel Corporation's
Programmer's Reference Manual for one of
the IA 32 processors. This is a good introduction to a good deal of computer architecture material, as well as
your refernce standard for the Intel Architecture.
For those of you who continue, Good Luck. I hope you find the experience
an important part of your computer
engineering education. I also hope you have a good time doing it.
An outline of lecture topics.
1. Fundamental properties of microarchitecture.
2. Basic concepts
Critical path design
Pipelining, superpipelining, superscalar
Bread and butter design
Partitioning of functionality
Role of Microprogramming in 1996
Native mode vs. emulation
Approaches to concurrency
Support for multiprogramming
Support for multiprocessing
3. Fundamental paradigms.
SIMD, MIMD, SPMD
VLIW vs. Superscalar
HPS (superscalar, dynamic scheduling, precise exceptions)
The Multiscalar approach
4. Measurement Methodology
SPEC 95 benchmarks
Other methods of benchmarking
Abuse of statistics
5. Instruction supply mechanisms
Removing pipeline stalls
Branch Prediction (static, dynamic)
Post-decode caches, trace caches
Methods for approximating perfect caches
Methods for approximating perfect branch prediction
6. Data Processing
Function unit capability
Internal communication (bypass mechanisms)
State maintenance mechanisms
(checkpoint, reorder buffer, history buffer)
Retirement (precise vs. imprecise exceptions)
Methods for approximating perfect data flow
7. Data Supply mechanisms
New approaches to cache structure
Mechanisms for dealing with memory contention
Functional unit capabilities
Pin bandwidth problem
Impact of processor/memory cycle time disparity
8. Influence of ISA on performance tradeoffs.
9. Compile time/run time tradeoffs.
10. Computer Arithmetic
Fast vs. Correct arithmetic
The IEEE Floating point standard
Impact of the Floating point standard on performance
11. Influence of a Multiprocessor Environment
12. Influence of the I/O subsystem
13. Influence of the Application environment
Strictly integer code
14. Case studies
Detailed study of a classic microprogrammed machine
Detailed study of a current microprocessor implementation