Computer Sciences Dept.

Frequent Pattern Compression: A Significance-Based Compression Scheme for L2 Caches

Alaa Alameldeen, David Wood

With the widening gap between processor and memory speeds, memory system designers may find cache compression beneficial to increase cache capacity and reduce off-chip bandwidth. Most hardware compression algorithms fall into the dictionary-based category, which depend on building a dictionary and using its entries to encode repeated data values. Such algorithms are effective in compressing large data blocks and files. Cache lines, however, are typically short (32-256 bytes), and a per-line dictionary places a significant overhead that limits the compressibility and increases decompression latency of such algorithms. For such short lines, significance-based compression is an appealing alternative. We propose and evaluate a simple significance-based compression scheme that has a low compression and decompression overhead. This scheme, Frequent Pattern Compression (FF'C) compresses individual cache lines on a word-by-word basis by storing common word patterns in a compressed format accompanied with an appropriate prefix. For a 64-byte cache line, compression can be completed in three cycles and decompression in five cycles, assuming 12 F04 gate delays per cycle. We propose a compressed cache design in which data is stored in a compressed form in the L2 caches, but are uncompressed in the L,1 caches. L2 cache lines are compressed to predetermined sizes that never exceed their original size to reduce decompression overhead. This simple scheme provides comparable compression ratios to more complex schemes that have higher cache hit latencies.

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