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Advances in semiconductor technology have driven shared-memory servers toward processors with multiple cores per die and multiple threads per core. This paper presents simple hardware primitives enabling flexible and low-complexity multi-chip designs supporting an efficient inter-node coherence protocol implemented in software. We argue that our primitives and the example design presented in this paper have lower hardware overhead, have easier (and later) verification requirements, and provide the opportunity for flexible coherence protocols and simpler protocol bug corrections than traditional designs. Our evaluation is based on detailed full-system simulations of modern chip-multiprocessors and both commercial and HPC workloads. We compare a low-complexity system based on the proposed primitives with aggressive hardware multi-chip shared-memory systems and show that the performance is competitive across a large design space.
Date of Conference: 10-16 Nov. 2007