Embedded Computer Architecture
2021 - 2022 (Second Quartile)
Code : 5SIA0
Credits: 5 ECTS
Lecturers : Prof. dr. Henk Corporaal
+31-40-247 5195 (secr.) 5462 (office)
- Ali Banagozar (a.banagozar at tue.nl), specifically for the CGRA
- Sun Wei (w.sun at tue.nl), for the GPU lab
- Patrick Wijnings (p.w.a.wijnings at tue.nl), for lab on
with some (background) help from:
- Barry de Bruin (e.d.bruin at tue.nl)
- Jan 20: All lecture slides, including wrap-up, are now online.
- Lecture starts: Monday, November 15, 10.45 h.
and following lecture Wednesday November 17, 17.30h.
Note: this website will be updated continuously during the
- We also use oncourse.tue.nl, Search for course Embedded
Computer Architecture (5SIA0) in Electrical Engineering.
article about processor design a 90 minute guide!
- Tentative Course schedule.
Information on the course:
When looking at future embedded systems and their design, especially
(but not exclusively) in the multi-media and machine learning
domains, we observe several problems:
In order to solve these problems we foresee the use of programmable
multi-processor platforms, having an advanced memory hierarchy, this
together with an advanced design trajectory. These platforms may
contain different processors, ranging from general purpose
processors, to processors and accelerators which are highly tuned
for a specific application or application domain. This course treats
the design principles of the current advanced processor
architectures, shows how to program them, and compares their
efficiency in terms of cost, power and performance. Furthermore the
tuning of processor architectures is treated.
- high performance (1 TOPS and far beyond) has to be combined
with low power, often less than 1 Watt;
- many systems are mobile and battery operated;
- time-to-market (to get your design done) constantly reduces;
- most embedded processing systems have to be extremely low
- the applications show more dynamic behavior (resulting in
greatly varying quality and performance requirements);
- more and more the implementer requires flexible and
programmable solutions, allowing late changes of used algorithms
and system updates;
- reliability gets an issue with denser silicon technologies and
more on-chip circuitry;
- huge latency gap between processors and memories; and
- design productivity does not cope with the increasing design
Several advanced Multi-Processor
Platforms, combining discussed processors, are treated. A set of
3 mandatory very advanced lab exercises complements this course.
This course aims at getting an understanding of the processor
architectures which will be used in future multi-processor
platforms, including their memory hierarchy, especially for the
embedded domain. Treated processors range from general purpose to
highly optimized ones. Trade-offs will be made between
performance, flexibility, programmability, energy consumption and
cost. It will be shown how to tune processors in various ways.
Studying the architecture, organization and use of the newest
(micro)processors currently on the market, and the latest research
developments in computer architecture. Architectures exploiting
instruction-level parallelism (ILP), data-level parallelism (DLP,
like exploited by GPUs), thread-level and task-level parallelism
are treated. Starting from basic architecture concepts we will end
with discussing the latest commercial processors.
This course also treats how processors can be combined in a
multiprocessing platform, e.g. by using a Network-on-Chip.
Inter-processor communication issues will be dealt with.
Furthermore some loop transformation techniques needed for
exploiting ILP, parallelism and data reuse, will be treated.
Note, code generation will be far more extensively treated in a special
course on Parallelization, Compilers and Platforms; 5LIM0.
Special emphasis will be on quantifying design decisions in terms
of energy, performance and cost. The intention of the course is to
give students the ability to understand the design principles and
operation of new (multi-)processor architectures, and evaluate
them both qualitatively and quantitatively. Although we treat
several examples, the emphasis will be on architecture concepts.
Furthermore, 3 intensive lab exercises are part of course; they
will learn you the design space of multi- and graphics processors.
We may invite several guest lectures treating State-of-the-Art
topics in the computer architecture area.
- Basic principles (like RISC and instruction set design),
pipelining and its consequences.
- All processor architecture varieties, including VLIW
(very long instruction word, including TTAs,
Transport Triggered Architectures), Superpipelined, Superscalar,
SIMD (single instruction, multiple data, used in vector
and sub-word parallel processors) and MIMD (multiple
instruction, multiple data) architectures; SMT (Simultaneous
Multi-Threading); CGRAs (Coarse Grain Reconfigurable
Arrays), and Accelerators.
- Concepts like: Out-of-Order and speculative execution;
Branch prediction; Data (value) prediction; Design of advanced
memory hierarchies; Near- and In-memory computing; Memory
coherency and consistency; Multi-threading; Exploiting
task-level and instruction-level parallelism; Inter-processor
communication models; Input and output; Network Communication
Architecture; and Networks-on-Chip.
- In all cases it is shown how to program these
architectures. Furthermore their combination and
interconnection in an MPSoCs (Multi-Processor Systems-on-Chips)
- Most of the topics will be supplemented by very elaborate
The lecture slides will be made available during the course; see
Papers and other reading material.
Architecture: A quantitative approach
Hennessy and Patterson
6th Edition (make sure you have this edition!)
Especially study Chapters 1-5, and 7, and Appendices A-C,
Background reading E, F and K
Alternative book, less recent
but more conceptual, strongly recommended for background
Organization and Design
Michel Dubois, Murali Annavaram, and Per Stenström
Cambridge university press
In addition: Learn Chapter 2 on
Computer Architecture Trends
taken from the book "Microprocessor Architectures, from VLIW to
Corporaal, publisher John Wiley, 1998.
Slides (per topic; see also the course description)
Note: all slides will be updated during the course
Chapter numbers correspond, unless mentioned otherwise, to the
book of Dubois. Related chapters from Hennessy and Patterson's
book are mentioned in the slide sets.
Slides and material corresponding to labs:
Go to oncourse.tue.nl for all the lab material !!
Hands-on lab work
note: lab courses will be updated during the course;
check especially the oncourse.tue.nl site !!
Becoming a very good Computer Architect you have to practice a
lot. Therefore, as part of this course we have put a lot of
effort in preparing 3 very interesting lab assignments. For each lab
there is a website with all the required documentation and
preparation material. These lab assignments can be made (largely,
but check the wiki pages) on your own laptop, with for certain
parts, remote access to our server systems.
For every lab you have to write a report, which has to be sent to
one of the course assistants, or via the oncourse web site (always
check the lab specific instructions).
Lab DSE: Using GEM5 simulator for architecture design space
In this lab, you'll get some hands-on experience using the GEM5 simulator; see also the Gem5 slides.
The main goal of this lab is to learn how a simulator can be
exploited for exploring the impacts of architectural modifications
on performance, and in particular how design choices in processor
and cache hierarchy impact the trade-off between energy efficiency
and performance. Furthermore, you will learn: how to do basic power
modelling of a full system; how to deal with a large amount of
simulation parameters and big output data files; and how to write C
code that optimally exploits a given cache hierarchy.
Lab GPU: Programming Graphic Processing Units
Graphic processing units (GPUs) can contain upto thousands of
Processing Engines (PEs). They achieve performance levels of Tera
FLops (10^12 floating point operations per second). In the past GPUs
were very dedicated, not general programmable, and could only
be used to speedup graphics processing. Today, they become
more-and-more general purpose and even appear in high end embedded
systems. The latest GPUs of ATI/AMD and NVIDIA can be programmed in
Cuda and/or OpenCL. For this lab we will use GPUs together
with the OpenCL (based on C) programming environment.
For details on the assignment see the oncourse site.
First study GPU lecture and the matrix multiplication
example in the cookbook, before starting the real assignment.
Lab CGRA: Processor Design Space Exploration, based on the CGRA
You will be asked to design and optimize a low power and very
flexible CGRA, Coarse Grain Reconfigurable Array processor for a
certain application. You can both configure the CGRA and make
a smart mapping of the application to this CGRA. In particular you
have to trade-off performance and energy consumption.
Detailed documentation about these assignments will be put on our
5SIA0 oncourse.tue.nl website, you need to log in.
As part of this lecture you have to study a hot topic related to
this course, and make a short slide presentation about this topic.
The slides have to be presented during the oral exam (usually in the
beginning of Q3)
Guidelines are as follows:
- Choose one hot topic
which interests you and which is highly related to this
- Select one technical (in depth) research paper from the web,
based on this topic.
- The paper should be published in 2019 or later.
- The paper should have
sufficient technical depth; i.e. it should clearly
explain all the details of the proposed method or solution. So
e.g. do not choose company white or business papers. You can
also check whether the paper is from well perceived journals or
conferences, like IEEE, or ACM conferences and journals
(see e.g. IEEE.org, and ACM.org). E.g., have a look at
the following conferences:
- ISCA: International Symposium on
Computer Architecture: iscaconf.org
- IEEE MICRO: Symposium on
Microprocessor Architectures: www.microarch.org
- ASPLOS: Architectural support for
languages and operating systems: asplos-conferenc.org
- ICS: International Conference on
- ISSCC: International Solid State
Circuits Conference: isscc.org
- DAC: Design Automation Conference:
Automation and Test in Europe:
Codesign) + ISSS (International Symposium on System
Architectures, and Synthesis for Embedded Systems:
Symposium on Micro Arch: www.microarch.org
Computer Architecture: www.hpcaconf.org
architectures and compilation techniques:
- A much larger list can be found here.
You should make a powerpoint presentation on your topic; max 5 min. per presentation
(e.g. 5 slides;
one slide introducing the problem, then the approach and results
of each paper, and final conclusion and suggestions from your
side on this topic; add / use clear pictures to explain the approach)
- The presentation should contain at least the following:
- Summary of
the paper contributions (including technical details)
- Your evaluation
of the paper and topic
- strong points
- weak points
- applicability of proposed methodology / solution
- indicate new / future directions of research
- In order to evaluate the paper you may wish to read related material on the same
- Your presentation will be evaluated by us. This evaluation
will be taken into account for the final grading.
The examination will be a written exam, online (using your laptop),
about the treated course theory (all treated slides + corresponding
parts of the used book), and the 3 labs. Maximum grading:
Note, the written exam includes many questions directly related to
- for the three lab reports, each 1 point
- written exam 7 points
- of which 4.5 points directly related to the labs and
corresponding architectures, and
- 2.5 points for the remaining theory questions (book +
When: in the exam period (check the time table).
In addition, as a small bonus (max 1 point), there will be a short
oral presentation of a recent article you studied. This is not
Related material and other links
Interesting older processor architectures:
- The cell
architecture, made by Sony, IBM and Toshiba, and used e.g.
in Playstation 3
architecture, combining several types of parallelism
- The tile based RAW
architecture from MIT
a hybrid SIMD - VLIW architecture from Stanford
- Merrimac, the
successor of the Imagine
- ChipCon, check e.g. their system-on-chip: CC1110
from MAXIM, Dallas; a Transport Triggered Architecture
a Network-on-Chip from Philips
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