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We analyze the effect of errors in branch predictors, a representative example of speculative processor subsystems, to motivate the necessity for fault tolerance in such subsystems. We also describe the design of fault tolerant branch predictors using general fault tolerance techniques. We then propose a fault-tolerant implementation that utilizes the finite state machine (FSM) structure of the pattern history table (PHT) and the set of potential faulty states to predict the branch direction, yet without strictly identifying the correct state. The proposed solution provides virtually the same prediction accuracy as general fault tolerant techniques, while significantly reducing the incurred hardware overhead.
Date of Conference: 13-15 Oct. 2003