Exploiting Inherent Program Redundancy for Fault Tolerance
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Technology scaling has led to growing concerns about reliability in microprocessors. Currently, fault tolerance studies rely on creating explicitly redundant execution for fault detection or recovery, which usually involves expensive cost on performance, power, or hardware, etc. In our study, we find exploiting program's inherent redundancy can better trade off between reliability, performance, and hardware cost. This work proposes two approaches to enhance program reliability. The first approach investigates the additional fault resilience at the application level. We explore program correctness definition that views correctness from the application's standpoint rather than the architecture's standpoint. Under application-level correctness, multiple numerical outputs can be deemed as correct as long as they are acceptable to users. Thus faults that cause program to produce such outputs can also be tolerated. We find programs which produce inexact and/or approximate outputs can be very resilient at the application level. We call such programs soft computations, and find that they are common in multimedia workloads, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) workloads. Programs that only compute exact numerical outputs offer less error resilience at the application level. However, all programs that we have studied exhibit some enhanced fault resilience at the application level, including those that are traditionally considered as exact computations-e.g., SPECInt CPU2000. We conduct fault injection experiments and evaluate the additional fault tolerance at the application level compared to the traditional architectural level. We also exploit the relaxed requirements for numerical integrity of application-level correctness to reduce checkpoint cost: our lightweight recovery mechanism checkpoints a minimal set of program state including program counter, architectural register file, and stack; our soft-checkpointing technique identifies computations that are resilient to errors and excludes their output state from checkpoint. Both techniques incur much smaller runtime overhead than traditional checkpointing, but can successfully recover either all or a major part of program crashes in soft computations. The second approach we take studies value predictability for reducing fault rate. Value prediction is considered as additional execution, and its results are compared with corresponding computational outputs. Any mismatch between them is accounted as symptom of potential faults and incurs restoration process. To reduce misprediction rate caused by limitations of predictor itself, we characterize fault vulnerability at the instruction level and only apply value prediction to instructions that are highly susceptible to faults. We also vary threshold of confidence estimation according to instruction's vulnerability-instructions with high vulnerability are assigned with low confidence threshold, while instructions with low vulnerability are assigned with high confidence threshold. Our experimental results show benefit from such selective prediction and adaptive confidence threshold on balance between reliability and performance.