Voltage Set-up Problem on Embedded Systems with Multiple Voltages

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Dynamic voltage scaling (DVS), arguably the most effective energy reduction technique, can be enabled by having multiple voltages physically implemented on the chip and allowing the operating system to decide which voltage to use at run-time. Indeed, this is predicted as the future low-power system by International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). There still exist many important unsolved problems on how to reduce the system's dynamic and/or total power by DVS. One of such problems, which we refer to as the voltage set-up problem, is "how many levels and at which values should voltages be implemented for the system to achieve the maximum energy saving". It challenges whether DVS technique's full potential in energy saving can be reached on multiple-voltage systems. In this paper, (1) we derive analytical solutions for dual-voltage system. (2) For the general case that does not have analytic solutions, we develop efficient numerical methods that can take the overhead of voltage switch and leakage into account. (3) We demonstrate how to apply the proposed algorithms on system design. (4) Interestingly, the experimental results, on both real life DSP applications and random created applications, suggest that multiple-voltage DVS systems with only a couple levels of voltages, when set up properly, can be very close to DVS technique's full potential in energy saving.

Parts of this report were published in IEEE Transactions on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Systems, Vol. 13, No. 7, pp. 869-872, July 2005.