The Cell Broadband Engine: Exploiting Multiple Levels of Parallelism in a Chip Multiprocessor

As CMOS feature sizes continue to shrink and traditional microarchitectural methods for delivering high performance (e.g., deep pipelining) become too expensive and power-hungry, chip multiprocessors (CMPs) become an exciting new direction by which system designers can deliver increased performance. Exploiting parallelism in such designs is the key to high performance, and we find that parallelism must be exploited at multiple levels of the system: the thread-level parallelism that has become popular in many designs fails to exploit all the levels of available parallelism in many workloads for CMP systems.

We describe the Cell Broadband Engine and the multiple levels at which its architecture exploits parallelism: data-level, instruction-level, thread-level, memory-level, and compute-transfer parallelism. By taking advantage of opportunities at all levels of the system, this CMP revolutionizes parallel architectures to deliver previously unattained levels of single chip performance.

We describe how the heterogeneous cores allow to achieve this performance by parallelizing and offloading computation intensive application code onto the Synergistic Processor Element (SPE) cores using a heterogeneous thread model with SPEs. We also give an example of scheduling code to be memory latency tolerant using software pipelining techniques in the SPE.

By: Michael Gschwind

Published in: , volume 35, (no 3), pages 233-62 in 2007


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