Illusionist: Transforming lightweight cores into aggressive cores on demand

Amin Ansari, Shuguang Feng, Shantanu Gupta, Josep Torrellas, Scott Mahlke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Power dissipation limits combined with increased silicon integration have led microprocessor vendors to design chip multiprocessors (CMPs) with relatively simple (lightweight) cores. While these designs provide high throughput, single-thread performance has stagnated or even worsened. Asymmetric CMPs offer some relief by providing a small number of high-performance (aggressive) cores that can accelerate specific threads. However, threads are only accelerated when they can be mapped to an aggressive core, which are restricted in number due to power and thermal budgets of the chip. Rather than using the aggressive cores to accelerate threads, this paper argues that the aggressive cores can have a multiplicative impact on single-thread performance by accelerating a large number of lightweight cores and providing an illusion of a chip full of aggressive cores. Specifically, we propose an adaptive asymmetric CMP, Illusionist, that can dynamically boost the system throughput and get a higher single-thread performance across the chip. To accelerate the performance of many lightweight cores, those few aggressive cores run all the threads that are running on the lightweight cores and generate execution hints. These hints are then used to accelerate the execution of the lightweight cores. However, the hardware resources of the aggressive core are not large enough to allow the simultaneous execution of a large number of threads. To overcome this hurdle, Illusionist performs aggressive dynamic program distillation to execute small, critical segments of each lightweight-core thread. A combination of dynamic code removal and phase-based pruning distill programs to a tiny fraction of their original contents. Experiments demonstrate that Illusionist achieves 35% higher single thread performance for all the threads running on the system, compared to a CMP with all lightweight cores, while achieving almost 2X higher system throughput compared to a CMP with all aggressive cores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication19th IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture, HPCA 2013
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2013
Event19th IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture, HPCA 2013 - Shenzhen, China
Duration: Feb 23 2013Feb 27 2013

Publication series

NameProceedings - International Symposium on High-Performance Computer Architecture
ISSN (Print)1530-0897


Other19th IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture, HPCA 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture


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