Exploring the Prefetcher/Memory Controller Design Space: An Opportunistic Prefetch Scheduling Strategy

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Prefetching is a well-known technique for bridging the memory gap. By predicting future memory references the prefetcher can fetch data from main memory and insert it into the cache such that overall performance is increased. Modern memory controllers reorder memory requests to exploit the 3D structure of modern DRAM interfaces. In particular, prioritizing memory requests that use open pages increases throughput significantly. In this work, we investigate the prefetcher/memory controller design space along three dimensions: prefetching heuristic, prefetch scheduling strategy and available memory bandwidth. In particular, we evaluate 5 different prefetchers and 6 prefetch scheduling strategies. Through this extensive investigation, we observed that prior prefetch scheduling strategies often cause memory bus contention in bandwidth constrained CMPs which in turn causes performance regressions. To avoid this problem, we propose a novel prefetch scheduling heuristic called Opportunistic Prefetch Scheduling that selectively prioritizes prefetches to open DRAM pages such that performance regressions are minimized. Opportunistic prefetch scheduling reduces performance regressions by 6.7X and 5.2X, while improving performance by 17% and 20% for sequential and scheduled region prefetching, compared to the direct scheduling strategy.