Tackling the Bus Turnaround Overhead in Real-Time SDRAM Controllers

Synchronous dynamic random access memories (SDRAMs) are widely employed in multi- and many-core platforms due to their high-density and low-cost. Nevertheless, their benefits come at the price of a complex two-stage access protocol, which reflects their bank-based structure and an internal level of explicitly managed caching. In scenarios in which requestors demand real-time guarantees, these features pose a predictability challenge and, in order to tackle it, several SDRAM controllers have been proposed. In this context, recent research shows that a combination of bank privatization and open-row policy (exploiting the caching over the boundary of a single request) represents an effective way to tackle the problem. However, such approach uncovered a new challenge: the data bus turnaround overhead. In SDRAMs, a single data bus is shared by read and write operations. Alternating read and write operations is, consequently, highly undesirable, as the data bus must remain idle during a turnaround. Therefore, in this article, we propose a SDRAM controller that reorders read and write commands, which minimizes data bus turnarounds. Moreover, we compare our approach analytically and experimentally with existing real-time SDRAM controllers both from the worst-case latency and power consumption perspectives.


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