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On the Threat of Metastability in an Asynchronous Fault-Tolerant Clock Generation Scheme

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3 Author(s)
Fuchs, G. ; Embedded Comput. Syst. Group, Vienna Univ. of Technol., Vienna ; Fugger, M. ; Steininger, A.

Due to their handshake-based flow control, asynchronous circuits generally do not suffer from metastability issues as much as synchronous circuits do. We will show, however, that fault effects like single-event transients can force (sequential) asynchronous building blocks such as Muller C-Elements into a metastable state. At the example of a fault-tolerant clock generation scheme, we will illustrate that metastability could overcome conventional error containment boundaries, and that, ultimately, a single metastable upset could cause even a multiple Byzantine fault-tolerant system to fail. In order to quantify this threat, we performed analytic modeling and simulation of the elastic pipelines, which are at the heart of our physical implementation of the fault-tolerant clocks. Our analysis results reveal that only transient pulses of some very specific width can trigger metastable behavior. So even without consideration of other masking effects the probability of a metastable upset to propagate through a pipeline is fairly small. Still, however, a thorough metastability analysis is mandatory for circuits employed in high-dependability applications.

Published in:

Asynchronous Circuits and Systems, 2009. ASYNC '09. 15th IEEE Symposium on

Date of Conference:

17-20 May 2009