A Notre Dame CSE Department Project

Morph: Morphable Computer Architectures for Highly Energy-Aware Systems
"Adding an Energy Gear to High Performance Embedded Systems"

General Problem: Current embedded systems exhibit a mix of power sources and operational modes, which result in huge variations in compute needs. Today's design practice, however, designs for the high performance peak, and utilizes relatively simplistic "low power modes" for other times. Despite these modes, the resulting systems are still nowhere near as energy efficient as systems built from the ground up for minimal energy useage. The latter, however, do not have the computational potential needed for future embedded systems. The results are either systems with too high an energy consumption, or too low a performance capability.

Specific Problem: To achieve a revolutionary reduction in overall power consumption, computing systems must be constructed out of both inherently low-power structures and power-aware (or even better energy-aware) hardware and software subsystems. Today's most prevalent practices involve simple frequency scaling and modes where subsystems are merely powered on or off as needed. The energy expended per computational event (memory access or issuance of new instructions) is not, however, adjustable, even when lower than peak performance is acceptable. This is particularly true as we move towards memory intensive hierarchical systems (register files, caches, SRAM, DRAM, Flash, ..) where placement of data within the hierarchy has as much effect on energy expenditures as lowering the logic power. It will become even more true with embedded systems on a chip. Thus, to go significantly beyond the current state of the art requires architectures with a wide dynamic range in adjust-able performance/energy settings, and run-time software to dynamically manage these settings against real-time constraints. Further, this must be coupled with support for programmer or compiler specifiable "hints" as how to most efficiently utilize the available energy.

The Morph Solution: design an architecture which can dynamically match system performance capabilities to the current needs, and reap the energy savings from running in a more energy efficient mode.

Major Morph Goals: Consequently, the Morph project has two major goals: first, to develop architectures whose energy/performance characteristics can be shaped to meet available energy profiles, and second to develop tools and software which will configure the system and place and manage data within a system so that these energy saving techniques can be achieved. Overall, this should provide a rich suite of solution techniques which will be useable in a wide variety of implementations and for a wide variety of mission applications.

Specific Approaches: In particular, this project will utilize several innovative approaches to achieving this control:

Sponsor: The Power Aware Computing/Communication (PACC) Program of the DARPA ITO Office

Principal Investigators:

Some recent posters and presentations

Some recent Morph papers

Some working reports

Some key background papers:

Last updated 1/15/04