A Study of STT-RAM-based In-Memory Computing Across the Memory Hierarchy

Dhruv Gajaria, Kevin Antony Gomez, Tosiron Adegbija

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


In-memory computing (or processing in memory) is a promising approach to reducing the data transfer bottleneck in computer systems by bringing computation closer to the memory. Prior work proposed using Spin-Transfer Torque RAM (STT-RAM) for in-memory computing to leverage STT-RAM's numerous advantages, including non-volatility, near-zero leakage power, high area density, better endurance than other non-volatile memory technologies and demonstrated commercial viability. This paper explores, for the first time, the tradeoffs of STT-RAM in-memory computing across the memory hierarchy, including the main memory and cache hierarchy. We explore a system model in which processing in memory (PiM) occurs in non-volatile STT-RAM, whereas processing in cache (PiC) occurs in relaxed retention (volatile) STT-RAM. In relaxed retention STT-RAM caches, the retention time - the duration for which the STT-RAM cell retains data - is significantly reduced to mitigate STT-RAM's intrinsic write latency and write energy overheads. Importantly, we also analyze the tradeoffs and overheads of data movement for PiC vs. write overheads for PiM for STT-RAMs. The analysis is performed in the context of different kinds of workloads to explore the impacts of various workload characteristics (e.g., temporal locality, computational intensity, CPU-dependent workloads with limited instruction-level parallelism) on PiC/PiM tradeoffs. Using these workloads, we also evaluate computing in STT-RAM vs. SRAM at different levels of the cache hierarchy. Our analysis reveals that STT-RAM-based PiC has promising advantages over PiM in certain workload contexts and offers solutions to some of the challenges that arise in implementing PiC-enabled systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2022 IEEE 40th International Conference on Computer Design, ICCD 2022
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781665461863
StatePublished - 2022
Event40th IEEE International Conference on Computer Design, ICCD 2022 - Olympic Valley, United States
Duration: Oct 23 2022Oct 26 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings - IEEE International Conference on Computer Design: VLSI in Computers and Processors
ISSN (Print)1063-6404


Conference40th IEEE International Conference on Computer Design, ICCD 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityOlympic Valley


  • in-cache computing
  • in-memory computing
  • relaxed retention time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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