A Case for OS-Friendly Hardware Accelerators

TitleA Case for OS-Friendly Hardware Accelerators
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsVo, H., Lee Y., Waterman A., & Asanović K.
Other Numbers3464

Modern SoCs make extensive use of specialized hardware accelerators to meet the demanding energy-efficiency requirements of demanding applications, such as computer graphics and video encoding/decoding. Unfortunately, the state of the art is a sea of heterogeneous fixed-function processing units wired together in an ad-hoc fashion, with dedicated memory spaces and a wide variety of host-accelerator synchronization mechanisms. This cumbersome approach complicates acceleration of a mix of multi-programmed applications running on a conventional operating system, and adds considerable communication overhead that reduces achievable speedups on a wide range of applications. We propose that accelerators should adopt a more standardized OS-friendly interface, to ease integration and improve performance on a wider range of code. Our framework standardizes the host-accelerator communication interface, provides a memory consistency model, and specifies the minimal requirements for virtual memory support. To evaluate the feasibility of our proposal, we conduct a case study in which we modify an existing data-parallel accelerator. When the integrated accelerator and processor system is pushed through TSMC’s 45nm process, we observe that the overhead


This work was partially supported by funding provided to ICSI by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors or originators and do not necessarily reflect the views of DARPA or of the U.S. Government.

Bibliographic Notes

Proceedings of the 7th Annual Workshop on the Interaction between Operating System and Computer Architecture (WIVOSCA-2013), at the 40th International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA-40), Tel Aviv, Israel

Abbreviated Authors

H. Vo, Y. Lee, A. Waterman, and K. Asanovi?

ICSI Research Group


ICSI Publication Type

Article in conference proceedings