Computer Sciences Dept.

David A. Wood

Professor Emeritus
Sheldon B. Lubar Chair in Computer Sciences
Amar and Balinder Sohi Professor

Picture of David Wood

Research Projects

Research Summary

My main research goals lie in developing cost-effective computer architectures that take advantage of rapidly changing technologies. My research program has two major thrusts:

  • evaluating the performance, feasibility, and correctness of new architectures, and
  • developing new tools and techniques to facilitate this evaluation.

My current work is mostly part of the Wisconsin Multifacet Project that I co-lead with Mark Hill. Multifacet proposes to perform research to improve the performance of the multiprocessor servers that form the computational infrastructure for Internet web servers, databases, and other demanding applications. Recent work includes:

  • Token Coherence
      Commercial workload and technology trends are pushing existing shared-memory multiprocessor coherence protocols in divergent directions. Token Coherence provides a framework for new coherence protocols that can reconcile these opposing trends by separating performance from correctness. A performance protocol can optimize for the common case (i.e., absence of races) and rely on the underlying correctness substrate to resolve races, provide safety, and prevent starvation. We call the combination Token Coherence, since it explicitly exchanges and counts tokens to control coherence permissions. We have developed TokenB, a specific Token Coherence performance protocol that allows a glueless multiprocessor to both exploit a low-latency unordered interconnect (like directory protocols) and avoid indirection (like snooping protocols). Simulations using commercial workloads show that our new protocol can significantly outperform traditional snooping and directory protocols.

  • Transmission Line Caches
      On-chip interconnect performance presents an increasing barrier to future high performance systems. The ITRS Roadmap projects that by the end of the decade, conventional global signals may require tens of cycles to communicate across a chip. This challenge has inspired wire-centric designs that use parallelism, locality, and on-chip wiring bandwidth to compensate for long wire latency. Transmission Line Caches (TLCs) take a different approach, exploiting newly-emerging on-chip transmission line technology to reduce on-chip interconnect delay and greatly reduce the level-2 cache access latency. Compared to conventional RC wires, transmission lines can reduce delay by up to a factor of 30 for global wires, while eliminating the need for repeaters. However, this latency reduction comes at the cost of a comparable reduction in bandwidth. Our family of Transmission Line Cache (TLC) designs represent different points in the latency/bandwidth spectrum. Compared to other proposals, TLCs can reduce area, improve performance, substantially reduce logical complexity, at the cost of somewhat greater circuit and manufacturing complexity.

Prior to Multifacet, I worked primarily on the Wisconsin Wind Tunnel Project, which focused on trade-offs for designing cost-effect parallel machines supporting shared memory.

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