Coming to Terms with the End of DRAM Scaling

Yoongu Kim (CMU)

Wednesday 3/18, 4:00-5:00pm
CIC Panther Hollow


For decades, main memory has enjoyed the continuous scaling of its physical substrate: DRAM. But now, DRAM scaling has reached a threshold where DRAM cells cannot be made smaller without jeopardizing their robustness. In this talk, I identify two specific challenges to DRAM scaling, and present architectural techniques to overcome them.

First, DRAM cells are becoming less reliable. By reading repeatedly from a cell, I show that it is possible to corrupt the data in nearby cells. Such errors arise from coupling effects between cells that have been placed too close to each other. I demonstrate the errors on real systems, proving them to be a security risk. After exploring the design space of potential remedies, I propose a probabilistic mechanism that prevents the errors with low hardware overhead.

Second, DRAM cells are growing slower due to worsening process variation. To tolerate the increasing latency, I propose to unlock more parallelism within a DRAM chip. By making non-intrusive changes to DRAM architecture, I increase the autonomy of each subarray, the smallest unit of DRAM floorplanning. This allows different subarrays to be accessed in parallel, and reduces the effective latency of main memory.


Yoongu Kim is a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University working in computer architecture with his advisor Onur Mutlu. Yoongu is worried about DRAM scaling, but is also excited that the time is ripe for rethinking how we design and build memory systems. He is a recipient of PhD Fellowships from Intel, Samsung, and the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies.