Pythia: A Customizable Hardware Prefetching Framework Using Online Reinforcement Learning

Past research has proposed numerous hardware prefetching techniques, most of which rely on exploiting one specific type of program context information (e.g., program counter, cacheline address) to predict future memory accesses. These techniques either completely neglect a prefetcher's undesirable effects (e.g., memory bandwidth usage) on the overall system, or incorporate system-level feedback as an afterthought to a system-unaware prefetch algorithm. We show that prior prefetchers often lose their performance benefit over a wide range of workloads and system configurations due to their inherent inability to take multiple different types of program context and system-level feedback information into account while prefetching. In this paper, we make a case for designing a holistic prefetch algorithm that learns to prefetch using multiple different types of program context and system-level feedback information inherent to its design. To this end, we propose Pythia, which formulates the prefetcher as a reinforcement learning agent. For every demand request, Pythia observes multiple different types of program context information to make a prefetch decision. For every prefetch decision, Pythia receives a numerical reward that evaluates prefetch quality under the current memory bandwidth usage. Pythia uses this reward to reinforce the correlation between program context information and prefetch decision to generate highly accurate, timely, and system-aware prefetch requests in the future. Our extensive evaluations using simulation and hardware synthesis show that Pythia outperforms multiple state-of-the-art prefetchers over a wide range of workloads and system configurations, while incurring only 1.03% area overhead over a desktop-class processor and no software changes in workloads. The source code of Pythia can be freely downloaded from

PDF Abstract


  Add Datasets introduced or used in this paper

Results from the Paper

  Submit results from this paper to get state-of-the-art GitHub badges and help the community compare results to other papers.


No methods listed for this paper. Add relevant methods here