Customising compilers for customisable processors
Murray, Alastair Colin
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The automatic generation of instruction set extensions to provide application-specific acceleration for embedded processors has been a productive area of research in recent years. There have been incremental improvements in the quality of the algorithms that discover and select which instructions to add to a processor. The use of automatic algorithms, however, result in instructions which are radically different from those found in conventional, human-designed, RISC or CISC ISAs. This has resulted in a gap between the hardware’s capabilities and the compiler’s ability to exploit them. This thesis proposes and investigates the use of a high-level compiler pass that uses graph-subgraph isomorphism checking to exploit these complex instructions. Operating in a separate pass permits techniques to be applied that are uniquely suited for mapping complex instructions, but unsuitable for conventional instruction selection. The existing, mature, compiler back-end can then handle the remainder of the compilation. With this method, the high-level pass was able to use 1965 different automatically produced instructions to obtain an initial average speed-up of 1.11x over 179 benchmarks evaluated on a hardware-verified cycle-accurate simulator. This result was improved following an investigation of how the produced instructions were being used by the compiler. It was established that the models the automatic tools were using to develop instructions did not take account of how well the compiler could realistically use them. Adding additional parameters to the search heuristic to account for compiler issues increased the speed-up from 1.11x to 1.24x. An alternative approach using a re-designed hardware interface was also investigated and this achieved a speed-up of 1.26x while reducing hardware and compiler complexity. A complementary, high-level, method of exploiting dual memory banks was created to increase memory bandwidth to accommodate the increased data-processing bandwidth provided by extension instructions. Finally, the compiler was considered for use in a non-conventional role where rather than generating code it is used to apply source-level transformations prior to the generation of extension instructions and thus affect the shape of the instructions that are generated.