Experimental study of aggressive undervolting in FPGAs
Document typeConference report
PublisherBarcelona Supercomputing Center
Rights accessOpen Access
In this work, we evaluate aggressive undervolting, i.e., voltage scaling below the nominal level to reduce the energy consumption of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). Usually, voltage guardbands are added by chip vendors to ensure the worst-case process and environmental scenarios. Through experimenting on several FPGA architectures, we measure this voltage guardband to be on average 39% of the nominal level, which in turn, delivers more than an order of magnitude power savings. However, further undervolting below the voltage guardband may cause reliability issues as the result of the circuit delay increase, i.e., start to appear faults. We extensively characterize the behavior of these faults in terms of the rate, location, type, as well as sensitivity to environmental temperature, with a concentration of on-chip memories, or Block RAMs (BRAMs). Finally, we evaluate a typical FPGA-based Neural Network (NN) accelerator under low-voltage BRAM operations. In consequence, the substantial NN energy savings come with the cost of NN accuracy loss. To attain power savings without NN accuracy loss, we propose a novel technique that relies on the deterministic behavior of undervolting faults and can limit the accuracy loss to 0.1% without any timing-slack overhead
CitationSalami, B.; Unsal, O. S.; Cristal Kestelman, A. Experimental study of aggressive undervolting in FPGAs. A: BSC Severo Ochoa International Doctoral Symposium (6th: 2019: Barcelona). "Book of abstracts". Barcelona: Barcelona Supercomputing Center, 2019, p. 71-72.