Computer Science Department
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


Compiler and Hardware Support for Automatic Instruction Prefetching: A Cooperative Approach

Todd C. Mowry, Chi-Keung Luk*

June 1998

Keywords: Cache memories, performance of systems (measurement techniques, performance attributes), compilers

Instruction cache miss latency is becoming an increasingly important performance bottleneck, especially for commercial applications. Although instruction prefetching is an attractive technique for tolerating this latency, we find that existing prefetching schemes are insufficient for modern superscalar processors since they fail to issue prefetches early enough (particularly for non-sequential accesses). To overcome these limitations, we propose a new instruction prefetching technique whereby the hardware and software cooperate to hide the latency as follows. The hardware performs aggressive sequential prefetching combined with a novel prefetch filtering mechanism to allow it to get far ahead without polluting the cache. To hide the latency of non-sequential accesses, we propose and implement a novel compiler algorithm which automatically inserts instruction-prefetch instructions into the executable to prefetch the targets of control transfers far enough in advance. Our experimental results demonstrate that this new approach results in speedups ranging from 9.4% to 18.5% (13.3% on average) over the original execution time on an out-of-order superscalar processor, which is more than double the average speedup of the best existing schemes (6.5%). This is accomplished by hiding an average of 71% of the original instruction stall time, compared with only 36% for the best existing schemes. We find that both the prefetch filtering and compiler-inserted prefetching components of our design are essential and complementary, that the compiler can limit the code expansion to less than 10% on average, and that our scheme is robust with respect to variations in miss latency and bandwidth.

20 pages

*Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 3G4.

Return to: SCS Technical Report Collection
School of Computer Science homepage

This page maintained by