Improving DRAM Performance, Reliability, and Security by Rigorously Understanding Intrinsic DRAM Operation

by   Hasan Hassan, et al.

DRAM is the primary technology used for main memory in modern systems. Unfortunately, as DRAM scales down to smaller technology nodes, it faces key challenges in both data integrity and latency, which strongly affect overall system reliability, security, and performance. To develop reliable, secure, and high-performance DRAM-based main memory for future systems, it is critical to rigorously characterize, analyze, and understand various aspects (e.g., reliability, retention, latency, RowHammer vulnerability) of existing DRAM chips and their architecture. The goal of this dissertation is to 1) develop techniques and infrastructures to enable such rigorous characterization, analysis, and understanding, and 2) enable new mechanisms to improve DRAM performance, reliability, and security based on the developed understanding. To this end, in this dissertation, we 1) design, implement, and prototype a new practical-to-use and flexible FPGA-based DRAM characterization infrastructure (called SoftMC), 2) use the DRAM characterization infrastructure to develop a new experimental methodology (called U-TRR) to uncover the operation of existing proprietary in-DRAM RowHammer protection mechanisms and craft new RowHammer access patterns to efficiently circumvent these RowHammer protection mechanisms, 3) propose a new DRAM architecture, called SelfManaging DRAM, for enabling autonomous and efficient in-DRAM maintenance operations that enable not only better performance, efficiency, and reliability but also faster and easier adoption of changes to DRAM chips, and 4) propose a versatile DRAM substrate, called the Copy-Row (CROW) substrate, that enables new mechanisms for improving DRAM performance, energy consumption, and reliability.


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