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Detailed architectural simulators suffer from a long development cycle and extremely long evaluation times. This longstanding problem is further exacerbated in the multi-core processor era. Existing solutions address the simulation problem by either sampling the simulated instruction stream or by mapping the simulation models on FPGAs; these approaches achieve substantial simulation speedups while simulating performance in a cycle-accurate manner. This paper proposes interval simulation which takes a completely different approach: interval simulation raises the level of abstraction and replaces the core-level cycle-accurate simulation model by a mechanistic analytical model. The analytical model estimates core-level performance by analyzing intervals, or the timing between two miss events (branch mispredictions and TLB/cache misses); the miss events are determined through simulation of the memory hierarchy, cache coherence protocol, interconnection network and branch predictor. By raising the level of abstraction, interval simulation reduces both development time and evaluation time. Our experimental results using the SPEC CPU2000 and PARSEC benchmark suites and the M5 multi-core simulator, show good accuracy up to eight cores (average error of 4.6% and max error of 11% for the multi-threaded full-system workloads), while achieving a one order of magnitude simulation speedup compared to cycle-accurate simulation. Moreover, interval simulation is easy to implement: our implementation of the mechanistic analytical model incurs only one thousand lines of code. Its high accuracy, fast simulation speed and ease-of-use make interval simulation a useful complement to the architect's toolbox for exploring system-level and high-level micro-architecture trade-offs.
Date of Conference: 9-14 Jan. 2010