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Number of register file ports in implementations
Author: Hubert Lamontagne Date: 2017-08-27 10:12
Agner wrote:
The idea of ForwardCom is that it should be a high-end vector processor comparable to x86, ARM, etc. but with a better design. The AGU needs addressing modes with base and index as well as the special addressing mode for vector loops. The ALU needs 3 operands for fused multiply-and-add which is required for a state-of-the-art processor, and I think that masking is also required for a high-performance vector processor.

I have limited the number of output registers to one in order to simplify dependency tracking and register renaming, following our previous discussion. This means no flags register, no conventional add-with-carry instruction, and no single-instruction stack POP.

Current x86 processors have at least the same number of register inputs, plus segment register, and at least two register write ports.

My idea is to combine the best from RISC and CISC. The weakness of CISC is that the decoding is complicated, and it is difficult to decode multiple instructions in one clock cycle. They are caching decoded instructions to deal with this, which is a waste of silicon space. ForwardCom deals with this by making decoding simple. The weakness of RISC is that you need more instructions to do the same. For example, RISC-V needs a long sequence of instructions just to calculate the address of a memory operand. If you can do the same with a single instruction, you get a much higher overall throughput.

Why do you think register read ports are so expensive?

I think this is one of those kind of things where it really depends on which tech you're aiming... Intel and AMD have huge register files with tons of ports on their modern cores. That probably takes up tons of silicon and suck out tons of power (and is probably hard to get running at very high clock rates). But that kind of chip is your target, so it's appropriate. Come to think of it, you're reminding me of the whole segment thing, and that's making me quite curious as to how x86 cores track that - it's the kind of thing you'd possibly want to keep in a separate register file and give it its own register renamer to reduce the level of contention with the rest of the registers.

On FPGAs, which I think would make sense for a test implementation, register files with lots of ports are an issue... especially with multiple write ports with no limitations on which registers are concurrently written to.
Here's a paper on this.

As for RISC-V, they're obviously targeting smaller implementations (kindof like ARM), which are often in-order with 1 or 2 instructions per cycle. At that performance point (and in small out-of-order CPUs), this MIPS-inspired design is pretty much the optimal design (along with ARM-style), as far as I can tell. Though you do have a point, that they might be overdoing simplicity by not having R+R*n addressing modes - although the performance hit of that probably varies a lot per application. I think a very large proportion of memory reads in non vector code are stack pointer or object pointer + offset, which probably reduces the impact of lacking more complex addressing modes.

One thing ARM has done is to keep the number of input dependencies per uop low at 2 for the integer part of the core (these ops HAVE to run at low latency), and let vector ops have 4 inputs (you can see the cost of this if you look at result latency for NEON ops - often 3+ cycles!).

 
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