Improving direct-mapped cache performance by the addition of a small fully-associative cache and prefetch buffers
TL;DR: In this article, a hardware technique to improve the performance of caches is presented, where a small fully-associative cache between a cache and its refill path is used to place prefetched data and not in the cache.
Abstract: Projections of computer technology forecast processors with peak performance of 1,000 MIPS in the relatively near future. These processors could easily lose half or more of their performance in the memory hierarchy if the hierarchy design is based on conventional caching techniques. This paper presents hardware techniques to improve the performance of caches.Miss caching places a small fully-associative cache between a cache and its refill path. Misses in the cache that hit in the miss cache have only a one cycle miss penalty, as opposed to a many cycle miss penalty without the miss cache. Small miss caches of 2 to 5 entries are shown to be very effective in removing mapping conflict misses in first-level direct-mapped caches.Victim caching is an improvement to miss caching that loads the small fully-associative cache with the victim of a miss and not the requested line. Small victim caches of 1 to 5 entries are even more effective at removing conflict misses than miss caching.Stream buffers prefetch cache lines starting at a cache miss address. The prefetched data is placed in the buffer and not in the cache. Stream buffers are useful in removing capacity and compulsory cache misses, as well as some instruction cache conflict misses. Stream buffers are more effective than previously investigated prefetch techniques at using the next slower level in the memory hierarchy when it is pipelined. An extension to the basic stream buffer, called multi-way stream buffers, is introduced. Multi-way stream buffers are useful for prefetching along multiple intertwined data reference streams.Together, victim caches and stream buffers reduce the miss rate of the first level in the cache hierarchy by a factor of two to three on a set of six large benchmarks.