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Significance-Based Computing for Reliability and Power Optimization (SCoRPiO)
Start date: Jun 1, 2013, End date: May 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Manufacturing process variability at low geometries and power dissipation are the most challenging problems in the design of future computing systems. Currently manufacturers go to great lengths to guarantee fault-free operation of their products by introducing redundancy in voltage margins, conservative layout rules, and extra protection circuitry. However, such design redundancy may result into energy overheads. Energy overheads cannot be alleviated by lowering supply voltage below a nominal value without hardware components experiencing faulty operation due to timing errors. On the other hand, many modern workloads, such as multimedia, machine learning, visualization, etc. are designed to tolerate a degree of imprecision in computations and data.SCoRPiO seeks to exploit this observation and to relax reliability requirements for the hardware layer by allowing a controlled degree of imprecision to be introduced to computations and data. It proposes to introduce methodologies that allow the system- and application-software layers to synergistically characterize the significance of various parts of the program for the quality of the end result, and their tolerance to faults. Based on this information, extracted automatically or semi-automatically, the system software will steer computations and data to either low-power, yet unreliable or higher-power and reliable functional and storage units. In addition, the system will be able to aggressively reduce its power footprint by opportunistically powering hardware modules below nominal values.Significance-based computing lays the foundations for not only approaching the theoretical limits of energy reduction of CMOS technology, but moving beyond those limits by accepting hardware faults in a controlled manner. Significance-based computing promises to be a preferred alternative to dark silicon, which requires that large portions of a chip be powered-off in every cycle to avoid excessive power dissipation.
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