A Framework to Explore Workload-Specific Performance and Lifetime Trade-offs in Neuromorphic Computing

Neuromorphic hardware with non-volatile memory (NVM) can implement machine learning workload in an energy-efficient manner. Unfortunately, certain NVMs such as phase change memory (PCM) require high voltages for correct operation. These voltages are supplied from an on-chip charge pump. If the charge pump is activated too frequently, its internal CMOS devices do not recover from stress, accelerating their aging and leading to negative bias temperature instability (NBTI) generated defects. Forcefully discharging the stressed charge pump can lower the aging rate of its CMOS devices, but makes the neuromorphic hardware unavailable to perform computations while its charge pump is being discharged. This negatively impacts performance such as latency and accuracy of the machine learning workload being executed. In this paper, we propose a novel framework to exploit workload-specific performance and lifetime trade-offs in neuromorphic computing. Our framework first extracts the precise times at which a charge pump in the hardware is activated to support neural computations within a workload. This timing information is then used with a characterized NBTI reliability model to estimate the charge pump's aging during the workload execution. We use our framework to evaluate workload-specific performance and reliability impacts of using 1) different SNN mapping strategies and 2) different charge pump discharge strategies. We show that our framework can be used by system designers to explore performance and reliability trade-offs early in the design of neuromorphic hardware such that appropriate reliability-oriented design margins can be set.

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