Decoupled Zero-Compressed Memory

Julien Dusser 1 André Seznec 1
1 ALF - Amdahl's Law is Forever
Inria Rennes – Bretagne Atlantique , IRISA-D3 - ARCHITECTURE
Abstract : For each computer system generation, there are always applications or workloads for which the main memory size is the major limitation. On the other hand, in many cases, one could free a very significant portion of the memory space by storing data in a compressed form. Therefore, a hardware compressed memory is an attractive way to artificially increase the amount of data accessible in a reasonable delay. Among the data that are highly compressible are null data blocks. Previous work has shown that, on many applications null blocks represent a significant fraction of the working set resident in main memory. We propose to leverage this property through the use of a hardware compressed memory that only targets null data blocks, the decoupled zero-compressed memory. Borrowing ideas from the decoupled sectored cache and the zero-content augmented cache, the decoupled zero-compressed memory, or DZC memory, manages the main memory as a decoupled sectored set-associative cache where null blocks are only represented by a validity bit. Our experiments show that for many applications, the DZC memory allows to artificially enlarge the main memory, i.e. it reduces the effective physical memory size needed to accommodate the working set of an application without excessive page swapping. Moreover, the DZC memory can be associated with a zero-content augmented cache to manage null blocks across the whole memory hierarchy. On some applications, such a management significantly decreases the memory traffic and therefore can significantly improve performance.
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Julien Dusser, André Seznec. Decoupled Zero-Compressed Memory. [Research Report] RR-7073, INRIA. 2009. ⟨inria-00426765⟩

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