Computer Systems and Engineering Seminar Series

Exploring the Interplay of Software, Hardware, and ISA in Memory Model Design

Speaker:Caroline Trippel
Date: Friday, September 30, 2016
Time: 11:45am - 1:00pm
Location: North 311, Duke
Lunch will be served beginning at 11:45am.


The ISA is a multi-part specification of hardware behavior as seen by software. One significant, yet often under-appreciated, aspect of this specification is the memory consistency model (MCM) which governs inter-module interactions in a shared memory system. MCM design choices are complicated and involve reasoning about the subtle interplay between many diverse features. Simply defining an ISA specification in light of the evaluation of a single microarchitecture is not sufficient, as future designs may expose inefficiencies or inaccuracies within the specification.

In this talk, I will make a case for MCM-aware ISA design, and present a toolflow we have developed to support it. In particular, we have developed a methodology for evaluating and refining an ISA's MCM to ensure a correct and complete specification. I will also discuss how we apply our framework to the open source RISC-V ISA, focusing on the goal of accurate, efficient, and legal compilations from C/C++. I will present under-specifications and potential inefficiencies we have uncovered in the current RISC-V ISA documentation and identify possible solutions for each. As an example, we find that a RISC-V-compliant microachitecture allows 144 outcomes forbidden by C/C++ to be observed out of 1,701 litmus tests examined. I will show that using our framework, ISA designers can iteratively refine and evaluate ISA specifications in a microarchitecture-aware manner based on the ISA's ability to serve as a target for compiled C/C++ programs.


Caroline Trippel is a Ph.D candidate in the Computer Science department at Princeton University. She is entering her fourth year, advised by Professor Margaret Martonosi. Her specialization is broadly Computer Architecture, and more specifically memory consistency in heterogeneous systems and ISA memory consistency model design and specification. She received her B.S. in Computer Engineering from Purdue University in May 2013, her M.A in Computer Science from Princeton University in September 2015, and is a 2016 NVIDIA Graduate Fellowship Finalist.

Hosted by:
Benjamin Lee (ECE)