EnforceSNN: Enabling Resilient and Energy-Efficient Spiking Neural Network Inference considering Approximate DRAMs for Embedded Systems

Spiking Neural Networks (SNNs) have shown capabilities of achieving high accuracy under unsupervised settings and low operational power/energy due to their bio-plausible computations. Previous studies identified that DRAM-based off-chip memory accesses dominate the energy consumption of SNN processing. However, state-of-the-art works do not optimize the DRAM energy-per-access, thereby hindering the SNN-based systems from achieving further energy efficiency gains. To substantially reduce the DRAM energy-per-access, an effective solution is to decrease the DRAM supply voltage, but it may lead to errors in DRAM cells (i.e., so-called approximate DRAM). Towards this, we propose EnforceSNN, a novel design framework that provides a solution for resilient and energy-efficient SNN inference using reduced-voltage DRAM for embedded systems. The key mechanisms of our EnforceSNN are: (1) employing quantized weights to reduce the DRAM access energy; (2) devising an efficient DRAM mapping policy to minimize the DRAM energy-per-access; (3) analyzing the SNN error tolerance to understand its accuracy profile considering different bit error rate (BER) values; (4) leveraging the information for developing an efficient fault-aware training (FAT) that considers different BER values and bit error locations in DRAM to improve the SNN error tolerance; and (5) developing an algorithm to select the SNN model that offers good trade-offs among accuracy, memory, and energy consumption. The experimental results show that our EnforceSNN maintains the accuracy (i.e., no accuracy loss for BER less-or-equal 10^-3) as compared to the baseline SNN with accurate DRAM, while achieving up to 84.9% of DRAM energy saving and up to 4.1x speed-up of DRAM data throughput across different network sizes.


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