Unleashing the potential of MLC STT-RAM caches

TitleUnleashing the potential of MLC STT-RAM caches
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsX Bi, M Mao, D Wang, and H Li
Conference NameIeee/Acm International Conference on Computer Aided Design, Digest of Technical Papers, Iccad
Date Published12/2013

In this paper, we study the use of multi-level cell (MLC) spin-transfer torque RAM (STT-RAM) in cache design of embedded systems and microprocessors. Compared to the single level cell (SLC) design, a MLC STT-RAM cache is expected to offer higher density and faster system performance. However, the cell design constrains, such as the switching current requirement and asymmetry in write operations, severely limit the density benefit of the conventional MLC STT-RAM. The two-step read/write accesses and inflexible data mapping strategy in the existing MLC STT-RAM cache architecture may even result in system performance degradation. To unleash the real potential of MLC STT-RAM cache, we propose a cross-layer solution. First, we introduce the reverse magnetic junction tunneling (MTJ) into MLC cell design, which offers a more balanced device and design tradeoff and enables 2x storage density than SLC. At architectural level, we propose a cell split mapping method to divide cache lines into fast and slow regions and data migration policies to allocate the frequently-used data to fast regions. Furthermore, an application-aware speed enhancement mode is utilized to adaptively tradeoff cache capacity and speed, satisfying different requirements of various applications. Simulation results show that the proposed techniques can improve the system performance by 10.3% and reduce the energy consumption on cache by 26.0% compared with conventional MLC STT-RAM. © 2013 IEEE.