Survey and Benchmarking of Precision-Scalable MAC Arrays for Embedded DNN Processing

08/10/2021 ∙ by Ehab M. Ibrahim, et al. ∙ 0

Reduced-precision and variable-precision multiply-accumulate (MAC) operations provide opportunities to significantly improve energy efficiency and throughput of DNN accelerators with no/limited algorithmic performance loss, paving a way towards deploying AI applications on resource-constraint edge devices. Accordingly, various precision-scalable MAC array (PSMA) architectures were recently proposed. However, it is difficult to make a fair comparison between those alternatives, as each proposed PSMA is demonstrated in different systems with different technologies. This work aims to provide a clear view on the design space of PSMA and offer insights for selecting the optimal architectures based on designers' needs. First, we introduce a precision-enhanced for-loop representation for DNN dataflows. Next, we use this new representation towards a comprehensive PSMA taxonomy, capable to systematically cover most prominent state-of-the-art PSMAs, as well as uncover new PSMA architectures. Following that, we build a highly parameterized PSMA template that can be design-time configured into a huge subset of the design space spanned by the taxonomy. This allows to fairly and thoroughly benchmark 72 different PSMA architectures. We perform such studies in 28nm technology targeting run-time precision scalability from 8 to 2 bits, operating at 200 MHz and 1 GHz. Analyzing resulting energy efficiency and area breakdowns reveals key design guidelines for PSMA architectures.

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