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Exploiting data forwarding to reduce the power budget of VLIW embedded processors

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5 Author(s)
Sami, M. ; Dip. di Elettronica e Inf., Politecnico di Milano, Italy ; Sciuto, D. ; Silvano, C. ; Zaccaria, V.
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In this paper, a low-power approach to the design of embedded VLIW processor architectures is proposed. To solve the most part of data hazards in the pipeline, processors use forwarding (or bypassing) hardware to provide the required operands from the inter-stage pipeline registers directly to the inputs of the function units. The operands are then stored in the register file during the write-back pipeline stage. In this paper, we propose a power optimization technique based on the exploitation of the forwarding paths in the processor to avoid the power cost of writing/reading short-lived variables to/from the register file. In application-specific embedded systems, experimental evidence has shown that a significant number of variables are short-lived, that is their liveness (front first definition to last use) spans only few instructions. Values of short-lived variables can be accessed directly through the forwarding registers, avoiding write-back. An application example of our solution to a VLIW embedded core, when accessing the register file, has shown a power saving up to 35% with respect to the unoptimized approach on the given set of target benchmarks. The performance overhead is equal to one-gate delay to be added on the processor critical-path

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Design, Automation and Test in Europe, 2001. Conference and Exhibition 2001. Proceedings

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