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Rapid Development of Flexible Validated Processor Models [abstract] (PDF)
David A. Penry, Manish Vachharajani, and David I. August
Proceedings of the Workshop on Modeling, Benchmarking, and Simulation (MoBS), June 2005.

Given the central role of simulation in procesor design and research, an accurate, validated, and easily modified simulation model is extremely desirable. Prior work proposed a modeling methodology with the claim that it allows rapid construction of flexible validated models. In this paper, we present our experience using this methodology to construct a flexible validated model of Intel's Itanium 2 processor, lending support to their claims. Our initial model was constructed by a single researcher in only 11 weeks and predicts processor cycles-per-instruction(CPI) to within 7.9% on average for the entire SPEC CINT2000 benchmark suite. We find that aggregate accuracy for a metric like CPI is not sufficient; aggregate measures like CPI may conceal remaining internal "offsetting errors" which can adversely affect conclusions drawn from the model. We then modified the model to reduce error in specific performance constituents. In 2 1/2 person-weeks, overall constituent error was reduced from 3.1% to 2.1%, while simultaneously reducing average aggregate CPI error to 5.4%, demonstrating that model flexibility allows rapid improvements to accuracy. Flexibility is further shown by making significant changes to the model in under eight person-weeks to explore two novel microarchitectural techniques.