Forum Topic: Execution

Talk by Ivan Godard – 2014-02-05
at Stanford University’s Computer Systems Colloquium (EE380).

NOTE: the slides require genuine Microsoft PowerPoint to view; open source PowerPoint clones are unable to show the animations, which are essential to the slide content. If you do not have access to PowerPoint then watch the video, which shows the slides as intended.

Slides: execution.02 (.pptx)

Instruction execution on the Mill CPU:
Working at Mach 3

A perennial objection to wide-issue CPU architectures such as VLIWs and the Mill is that there is insufficient instruction level parallelism (ILP) in programs to make effective use of the available functional width. While software pipelining can reveal large quantities of ILP in loops, in open (non-loop) code studies have calculated maximum ILP in the order of two instructions per cycle (IPC), well below the capacity of even conventional VLIWs never mind super-wide architectures such as high-end Mills. The problem is that the program instructions tend to form chains connected by data dependencies, precluding executing them in parallel.

This talk addresses the ILP issue, describing how the Mill is able to achieve much higher IPC even when the nominal ILP is relatively low. The Mill is able to execute as many as six chained dependent operations in a single cycle; open code IPC numbers typically exceed nominal ILP by a factor of three. The talk will show in detail how this is achieved, and why we chose “Mach 3” as the name of the mechanism. In the course of the explanation, the talk will also introduce other operations for which the semantics of Mill execution differs from that of conventional CPUs.

Speaker bio

Ivan Godard has designed, implemented or led the teams for 11 compilers for a variety of languages and targets, an operating system, an object-oriented database, and four instruction set architectures. He participated in the revision of Algol68 and is mentioned in its Report, was on the Green team that won the Ada language competition, designed the Mary family of system implementation languages, and was founding editor of the Machine Oriented Languages Bulletin. He is a Member Emeritus of IFIPS Working Group 2.4 (Implementation languages) and was a member of the committee that produced the IEEE and ISO floating-point standard 754-2011.

Ivan is currently CTO at Mill Computing, a startup now emerging from stealth mode. Mill Computing has developed the Mill, a clean-sheet rethink of general-purpose CPU architectures. The Mill is the subject of this talk.