Virtual-Cache: A cache-line borrowing technique for efficient GPU cache architectures

Bingchao Li, Jizeng Wei, Nam Sung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


GPUs provide megabytes of registers and shared memories to maintain the contexts for thousands of threads and enable fast data sharing amongst threads of a thread block, respectively. Besides, GPUs employ L1 cache to provide the high bandwidth service for memory requests. However, the average L1 cache capacity per thread is very limited, resulting in cache thrashing which in turn impairs the performance. Meanwhile, many registers and shared memories are unassigned to any warps or thread blocks. Moreover, registers and shared memories that are assigned can be idle when warps or thread blocks are finished. Exploiting the above insights, we propose Virtual-Cache to cost-effectively increase the effective size of L1 cache by utilizing the unassigned and released registers and shared memories as cache-lines in this paper. Specifically, we leverage the unassigned registers and shared memories to serve cache requests directly. Regarding the registers assigned to a warp, they can work as cache-lines after the warp completes the execution and before they are accessed again by a new launched warp. Regarding the shared memories of a thread block, they are enabled to serve cache requests when the thread block is finished till they are referenced by shared memory instructions of the relaunched thread block. The register file, shared memory and L1 cache are physically independent but logically unified as a large virtual cache with redesigned cache-line management. We develop the control and data path for the register file, making the register file accessible for cache requests by borrowing an operand collector to serve the cache requests. We also expand the control and data path for the shared memory to serve the cache requests. Our evaluation results show that Virtual-Cache makes the performance improved by 28% over the previously proposed cache management technique for cache-sensitive applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104301
JournalMicroprocessors and Microsystems
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Cache
  • GPU
  • Register file
  • Shared memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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