The Virtual Block Interface: A Flexible Alternative to the Conventional Virtual Memory Framework

Nastaran Hajinazar, Pratyush Patel, Minesh Patel, Konstantinos Kanellopoulos, Saugata Ghose, Rachata Ausavarungnirun, Geraldo F. Oliveira, Jonathan Appavoo, Vivek Seshadri, Onur Mutlu

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

Abstract

Computers continue to diversify with respect to system designs, emerging memory technologies, and application memory demands. Unfortunately, continually adapting the conventional virtual memory framework to each possible system configuration is challenging, and often results in performance loss or requires non-trivial workarounds. To address these challenges, we propose a new virtual memory framework, the Virtual Block Interface (VBI). We design VBI based on the key idea that delegating memory management duties to hardware can reduce the overheads and software complexity associated with virtual memory. VBI introduces a set of variable-sized virtual blocks (VBs) to applications. Each VB is a contiguous region of the globally-visible VBI address space, and an application can allocate each semantically meaningful unit of information (e.g., a data structure) in a separate VB. VBI decouples access protection from memory allocation and address translation. While the OS controls which programs have access to which VBs, dedicated hardware in the memory controller manages the physical memory allocation and address translation of the VBs. This approach enables several architectural optimizations to (1) efficiently and flexibly cater to different and increasingly diverse system configurations, and (2) eliminate key inefficiencies of conventional virtual memory. We demonstrate the benefits of VBI with two important use cases: (1) reducing the overheads of address translation (for both native execution and virtual machine environments), as VBI reduces the number of translation requests and associated memory accesses; and (2) two heterogeneous main memory architectures, where VBI increases the effectiveness of managing fast memory regions. For both cases, VBI significantly improves performance over conventional virtual memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2020 ACM/IEEE 47th Annual International Symposium on Computer Architecture, ISCA 2020
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Pages1050-1063
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781728146614
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2020
Event47th ACM/IEEE Annual International Symposium on Computer Architecture, ISCA 2020 - Virtual, Online, Spain
Duration: May 30 2020Jun 3 2020

Publication series

NameProceedings - International Symposium on Computer Architecture
Volume2020-May
ISSN (Print)1063-6897

Conference

Conference47th ACM/IEEE Annual International Symposium on Computer Architecture, ISCA 2020
Country/TerritorySpain
CityVirtual, Online
Period5/30/206/3/20

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture

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