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Processor having execution core sections operating at different clock rates
RE44494 Processor having execution core sections operating at different clock rates
Patent Drawings:

Inventor: Sager, et al.
Date Issued: September 10, 2013
Application:
Filed:
Inventors:
Assignee:
Primary Examiner: Bae; Ji H
Assistant Examiner:
Attorney Or Agent: Trop, Pruner & Hu, P.C.
U.S. Class: 713/501; 712/1; 712/220; 712/32; 713/322; 713/500
Field Of Search: 713/501; 713/322; 713/500; 712/32; 712/1; 712/220
International Class: G06F 1/00; G06F 1/04; G06F 15/00; G06F 15/76; G06F 9/00
U.S Patent Documents:
Foreign Patent Documents:
Other References: Mano, Computer System Architecture, Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1982, p. 39. cited by applicant.









Abstract: A processor including a first execution core section clocked to perform execution operations at a first clock frequency, and a second execution core section clocked to perform execution operations at a second clock frequency which is different than the first clock frequency. The second execution core section runs faster and includes a data cache and critical ALU functions, while the first execution core section includes latency-tolerant functions such as instruction fetch and decode units and non-critical ALU functions. The processor may further include an I/O ring which may be still slower than the first execution core section. Optionally, the first execution core section may include a third execution core section whose clock rate is between that of the first and second execution core sections. Clock multipliers/dividers may be used between the various sections to derive their clocks from a single source, such as the I/O clock.
Claim: We claim:

1. A microprocessor comprising: a first execution core section .[.operating.]. .Iadd.adapted to operate .Iaddend.at a first clock frequency.Iadd., the first execution core sectionincluding a first multiplier unit adapted to multiply a clock signal to obtain the first clock frequency.Iaddend.; a second execution core section .[.operating.]. .Iadd.adapted to operate .Iaddend.at a second clock frequency.Iadd., the second executioncore section including a second multiplier unit adapted to multiply the clock signal to obtain the second clock frequency, .Iaddend.which is different than the first clock frequency; and an I/O ring clocked to perform input/output operations at an I/Ofrequency.Iadd., which is the same frequency as the clock signal.Iaddend..

2. The microprocessor of claim 1, wherein the second execution core section operates at least in part concurrently with the first execution core section.

3. The microprocessor of claim 1, wherein: the second execution core section includes a data cache and critical arithmetic logic unit (ALU) functions; and the first execution core section includes one or more of an instruction fetch, a decodeunit, and non-critical ALU functions.

4. The microprocessor of claim 3, wherein the critical ALU functions comprise one or more of: an adder; or a logic unit to perform AND and OR operations.

5. The microprocessor of claim 4, wherein the critical ALU functions further comprise: an address generation index register shifter.

6. The microprocessor of claim 3, wherein the second execution core section further includes a register file.Iadd., and wherein the first execution core section further includes another register file.Iaddend..

7. The microprocessor of claim .[.3.]. .Iadd.1.Iaddend., .[.wherein the first execution core section further includes a register file.]. .Iadd.wherein the first clock frequency is at substantially 0 MHz when the first execution core sectionis powered down.Iaddend..

8. The microprocessor of claim 7, wherein: the I/O frequency is different than the first and second clock frequencies.

9. The microprocessor of claim 8, further comprising: a first clock divider/multiplier coupled to the I/O ring and the first execution core section to divide or multiply the I/O clock frequency to generate the first clock frequency; and asecond clock divider/multiplier coupled to the first and second execution core sections to divide or multiply the first clock frequency to generate the second clock frequency.

10. The microprocessor of claim 1, wherein the microprocessor comprises a single, monolithic chip.

11. The microprocessor of claim 1, wherein the second execution core section is disposed within the first execution core section.

12. The microprocessor of claim 11, wherein the first execution core section is disposed within the I/O ring.

13. The microprocessor of claim 1, wherein the first execution core section and the second execution core section are located on the same semiconductor die.

14. The microprocessor of claim 1, wherein the second clock frequency is a multiple N of the first clock frequency.

15. The microprocessor of claim 1, wherein the second clock frequency is faster than the first clock frequency.

16. The microprocessor of claim 1, wherein the first execution core section is more tolerant of instruction latency than the second execution core section.

17. The microprocessor of claim 1, further comprising: a replay architecture, the replay architecture causing an instruction to be re-executed.

18. The microprocessor of claim 17, wherein the instruction is re-executed if the instruction was incorrectly processed because of erroneous data speculation.

19. The microprocessor of claim .[.17.]. .Iadd.18.Iaddend., wherein an instruction depending on the instruction that was incorrectly processed because of erroneous data speculation is also re-executed.

20. The microprocessor of claim 17, wherein the instruction is re-executed if: the instruction was not correctly processed for any reason; or input data used by the instruction is not known to be correct.

21. The microprocessor of claim 17, wherein the replay architecture includes: hit/miss logic to determine whether data speculation for .[.an.]. .Iadd.the .Iaddend.instruction is correct; a checker unit to receive the output of the hit/misslogic and to direct re-execution of the instruction; and a delay unit, the delay unit to provide a copy of an instruction to the checker unit at substantially the same time as the checker unit receives the output of the hit/miss logic.

22. The microprocessor of claim 21, wherein the delay unit is incorporated as part of the checker.

23. The microprocessor of claim 21, wherein the checker is located within the second execution core section.

24. A method comprising: performing an I/O operation in an I/O ring of a microprocessor at a first clock frequency to access a data item from outside the microprocessor; responsive to the I/O operation, performing a first execution operationupon the data item in a first execution sub-core of the microprocessor at a second clock frequency.Iadd., wherein a clock is multiplied by a first multiplier unit associated with the first execution sub-core to obtain the second clock frequency.Iaddend.; and responsive to the first execution operation, performing a second execution operation in a second execution sub-core of the microprocessor at a third clock frequency, .[.the third clock frequency being different.]. .Iadd.wherein a clock is multipliedby a second multiplier unit associated with the second execution sub-core to obtain the third clock frequency, which is higher .Iaddend.than the second clock frequency.

25. The method of claim 24, wherein an execution operation performed at the third clock frequency is performed at least in part concurrently with an execution operation performed at the second clock frequency.

26. The method of claim 24, further comprising: multiplying the first clock frequency to generate the second clock frequency; and multiplying the second clock frequency to generate the third clock frequency.

27. The method of claim 24, wherein: execution operations performed at the second clock frequency include one or more of fetch, decode, and non-critical arithmetic logic unit (ALU) functions; and execution operation performed at the thirdclock frequency include critical ALU functions.

28. The method of claim 24, further comprising re-executing an instruction if the instruction was incorrectly processed because of erroneous data speculation.

29. The method of claim 28, further comprising re-executing an instruction that depends on the instruction that was incorrectly processed.

30. The method of claim 24, further comprising .[.re-executing an instruction if: the instruction was not correctly processed for any reason; or input data used by the instruction is not known to be correct.]. .Iadd.performing the secondexecution operation in the second execution sub-core while the first execution sub-core is powered down.Iaddend..

31. A method comprising: inputting an instruction through operation of a first portion of a microprocessor at a first .Iadd.periodic .Iaddend.clock frequency; .Iadd.multiplying with a first multiplication unit the first periodic clockfrequency to obtain a second periodic clock frequency.Iaddend.; performing one or more fetch functions or decode functions associated with the instruction through operation of a second portion of the microprocessor at .[.a.]. .Iadd.the .Iaddend.second.Iadd.periodic .Iaddend.clock frequency; .[.and.]. .Iadd.multiplying with a second multiplication unit the second periodic clock frequency to obtain a third periodic clock frequency; and .Iaddend. performing one or more critical arithmetic logic unit(ALU) functions associated with the instruction through operation of a third portion of the microprocessor at .[.a.]. .Iadd.the .Iaddend.third .Iadd.periodic .Iaddend.clock frequency.[., the second clock frequency being different than the third clockfrequency.]..

32. The method of claim .[.21.]. .Iadd.31.Iaddend., wherein a function performed through operation of the second portion of the microprocessor at the second .Iadd.periodic .Iaddend.clock frequency occurs at least in part concurrently with afunction performed through operation of the third portion of the microprocessor at the third .Iadd.periodic .Iaddend.clock frequency.

33. The method of claim 31, wherein the second portion of the microprocessor comprises a first execution core.Iadd., and wherein the third portion of the microprocessor comprises a second execution core.Iaddend..

34. The method of claim .[.33.]. .Iadd.31.Iaddend., .[.wherein the third portion of the microprocessor comprises a second execution core.]. .Iadd.further comprising performing the one or more fetch functions or decode functions associatedwith the instruction through operation of a second portion of the microprocessor while the third portion of the microprocessor is powered down.Iaddend..

35. The method of claim 34, wherein the first portion of the microprocessor comprises an I/O section of the microprocessor.

36. A microprocessor comprising: a plurality of execution core sections, each execution core section .[.operating.]. .Iadd.being adapted to operate .Iaddend.at a different clock frequency, the plurality of execution core sections operating atleast in part concurrently with each other.Iadd., wherein each plurality of execution core sections are to be associated with an independent clock multiplier to generate the different clock frequency.Iaddend.; .Iadd.and .Iaddend. an I/O ring clocked toperform input/output operations at an I/O frequency.

37. The microprocessor of claim 36, wherein: a first execution core section of the plurality of execution core sections includes one or more of instruction fetch units, instruction decode units, and non-critical ALU functions; and a secondexecution core section of the plurality of execution core sections includes a data cache and one or more critical arithmetic logic unit (ALU) functions.

38. The microprocessor of claim 37, wherein the critical ALU functions comprise one or more of: an adder; or a logic unit for performing AND and OR operations.

39. The microprocessor of claim 37, wherein the critical ALU functions further comprise: an address generation index register shifter.

40. The microprocessor of claim 37, wherein the second execution core section further includes a register file.

41. The microprocessor of claim 37, wherein the first execution core section further includes a register file.

42. The microprocessor of claim 36, further comprising a plurality of clock divider/multipliers, each clock divider/multiplier to divide or .[.multiple.]. .Iadd.multiply .Iaddend.a first clock frequency to provide a second clock frequency toan execution core section.

43. The microprocessor of claim 36, wherein the microprocessor comprises a single, monolithic chip.

44. The microprocessor of claim 36, wherein a first execution core section of the plurality of execution core sections is disposed within the I/O ring.

45. The microprocessor of claim 44, wherein each remaining execution core section of the plurality of execution core sections is disposed to be wholly within another execution core section.

46. The microprocessor of claim 44, wherein each of the execution core sections is .[.more tolerant of instruction latency than any execution core sections disposed within it.]. .Iadd.located on the same semiconductor die.Iaddend..

47. The microprocessor of claim 36, wherein each of the plurality of execution core sections is located on the same semiconductor die.

48. The microprocessor of claim 47 .Iadd.further comprising a replay architecture, the replay architecture to cause an instruction to be re-executed.Iaddend., wherein the replay architecture includes: hit/miss logic to determine whether dataspeculation for an instruction is correct; a checker unit to receive the output of the hit/miss logic and to direct re-execution of the instruction; and a delay unit.Iadd., the delay unit .Iaddend.to provide a copy of an instruction to the checker unitat substantially the same time as the checker unit receives the output of the hit/miss logic.

49. The microprocessor of claim 36, further comprising: a replay architecture causing an instruction to be re-executed.

50. The microprocessor of claim 49, wherein the instruction is re-executed if the instruction was incorrectly processed because of erroneous data speculation.

51. The microprocessor of claim 50, wherein an instruction depending on the instruction that was incorrectly processed because of erroneous data speculation is also re-executed.

52. The microprocessor of claim .[.51.]. .Iadd.48.Iaddend., wherein the delay unit is incorporated as part of the checker .Iadd.unit.Iaddend..

53. The microprocessor of claim .[.46.]. .Iadd.48.Iaddend., wherein the instruction is re-executed if: the instruction was not correctly processed for any reason; or input data used by the instruction is not known to be correct.

.Iadd.54. An integrated circuit comprising: a processor including, first multiplier logic adapted to multiply a common clock to generate a first frequency; logic to perform input/output (I/O) operations at the first frequency; secondmultiplier logic adapted to multiply the common clock to generate a second frequency; a first core to operate at the second frequency; third multiplier logic adapted to multiply the common clock to generate a third frequency; and a second core tooperate at the third frequency, wherein the first, the second, and the third frequencies are different frequencies. .Iaddend.

.Iadd.55. The integrated circuit of claim 54, wherein the second core is nested within the first core. .Iaddend.
Description: BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to the field of high speed processors, and more specifically to a processor including a sub-core operating at a higher frequency than the rest of the execution core, and also to a replay architecture forfacilitating data-speculating operation of the sub-core.

2. Background of the Prior Art

FIG. 1 illustrates a microprocessor 100 according to the prior art. The microprocessor includes an I/O ring which operates at a first clock frequency, and an execution core which operates at a second clock frequency. For example, theIntel186DX2 may run its I/O ring at 33 MHz and its execution core at 66 MHz for a 2:1 ratio (1/2 bus), the IntelDX4 may run its I/O ring at 25 MHz and its execution core at 75 MHz for a 3:1 ratio (1/3 bus), and the Intel Pentium.RTM. OverDrive.RTM. processor may operate its I/O ring at 33 MHz and its execution core at 82.5 MHz for a 2.5:1 ratio (5/2 bus).

A distinction may be made between "I/O operations" and "execution operations". For example, in the DX2, the I/O ring performs I/O operations such as buffering, bus driving, receiving, parity checking, and other operations associated withcommunicating with the off-chip world, while the execution core performs execution operations such as addition, multiplication, address generation, comparisons, rotation and shifting, and other "processing" manipulations.

The processor 100 may optionally include a clock multiplier. In this mode, the processor can automatically set the speed of its execution core according to an external, slower clock provided to its I/O ring. This may reduce the number of pinsneeded. Alternatively, the processor may include a clock divider, in which case the processor sets the I/O ring speed responsive to an external clock provided to the execution core.

These clock multiply and clock divide functions are logically the same for the purposes of this invention, so the term "clock mult/div" will be used herein to denote either a multiplier or divider as suitable. The skilled reader will comprehendhow external clocks may be selected and provided, and from there multiplied or divided. Therefore, specific clock distribution networks, and the details of clock multiplication and division, will not be expressly illustrated. Furthermore, the clockmult/div units need not necessarily be limited to integer multiple clocks, but can perform e.g. 2:5 clocking. Finally, the clock mult/div units need not necessarily even be limited to fractional bus clocking, but can, in some embodiments, be flexible,asynchronous, and/or programmable, such as in providing a P/Q clocking scheme.

The basic motivation for increasing clock frequencies in this manner is to reduce instruction latency. The execution latency of an instruction may be defined as the time from when its input operands must be ready for it to execute until itsresult is ready to be used by another instruction. Suppose that a part of a program contains a sequence of N instructions, I.sub.1, I.sub.2, I.sub.3, . . . , I.sub.N. Suppose that I.sub.n+1 requires, as part of its inputs, the result of I.sub.n, forall n, from 1 to N-1. This part of the program may also contain any other instructions. Then we can see that this program cannot be executed in less time than T=L.sub.1,+L.sub.2+L.sub.3+. . .+L.sub.N, where L.sub.n is the latency of instructionI.sub.n, for all n from 1 to N. In fact, even if the processor was capable of executing a very large number of instructions in parallel, T remains a lower bound for the time to execute this part of this program. Hence to execute this program faster, itwill ultimately be essential to shorten the latencies of the instructions.

We may look at the same thing from a slightly different point of view. Define that an instruction I.sub.n is "in flight" from the time that it requires its input operands to be ready until the time when its result is ready to be used by anotherinstruction. Instruction I.sub.n is therefore "in flight" for a length of time L.sub.n=A.sub.n*C where A.sub.n is the latency, as defined above, of In, but this time expressed in cycles. C is the cycle time. Let a program execute N instructions asabove and take M "cycles" or units of time to do it. Looked at from either point of view, it is critically important to reduce the execution latency as much as possible.

The average latency can be conventionally defined as 1/N*(L.sub.1+L.sub.2+L.sub.3+ . . . +L.sub.N)=C/N*(A.sub.1+A.sub.2+A.sub.3+ . . . +A.sub.N). Let f.sub.j be the number of instructions that are in flight during cycle j. We can then definethe parallelism P as the average number of instructions in flight for the program or 1/M* (f.sub.1+f.sub.2+f.sub.3+ . . . +f.sub.M).

Notice that f.sub.1+f.sub.2+f.sub.3+ . . . +f.sub.M=A.sub.1+A.sub.2+A.sub.3+ . . . +A.sub.N. Both sides of this equation are ways of counting up the number of cycles in which instructions are in flight, wherein if x instructions are in flightin a given cycle, that cycle counts as x cycles.

Now define the "average bandwidth" B as the total number of instructions executed, N, divided by the time used, M*C, or in other words, B=N/(M*C).

We may then easily see that P=L*B. .[.I.sub.n.]. .Iadd.In .Iaddend.this formula, L is the average latency for a program, B is its average bandwidth, and P is its average Parallelism. Note that B tells how fast we execute the program. It isinstructions per second. If the program has N instructions, it takes N/B seconds to execute it. The goal of a faster processor is exactly the goal of getting B higher.

We now note that increasing B requires either increasing the parallelism P, or decreasing the average latency L. It is well known that the parallelism, P, that can be readily exploited for a program is limited. Whereas, it is true that certainclasses of programs have large exploitable parallelism, a large class of important programs has P restricted to quite small numbers.

One drawback which the prior art processors have is that their entire execution core is constrained to run at the same clock speed. This limits some components within the core in a "weakest link" or "slowest path" manner.

In the 1960s and 1970s, there existed central processing units in which a multiplier or divider co-processor was clocked at a frequency higher than other circuitry in the central processing unit. These central processing units were constructedof discrete components rather than as integrated circuits or monolithic microprocessors. Due to their construction as co-processors, and/or the fact that they were not integrated with the main processor, these units should not be considered as"sub-cores".

Another feature of some prior art processors is the ability to perform "speculative execution". This is also known as "control speculation", because the processor guesses which way control (branching) instructions will go. Some processorsperform speculative fetch, and others, such as the Intel Pentium Pro processor, also perform speculative execution. Control speculating processors include mechanisms for recovering from mispredicted branches, to maintain program and data integrity asthough no speculation were taking place.

FIG. 2 illustrates a conventional data hierarchy. A mass storage device, such as a hard drive, stores the programs and data (collectively "data") which the computer system (not shown) has at its disposal. A subset of that data is loaded intomemory such as DRAM for faster access. A subset of the DRAM contents may be held in a cache memory. The cache memory may itself be hierarchical, and may include a level two (L2) cache, and then a level one (L1) cache which holds a subset of the datafrom the L2. Finally, the physical registers of the processor contain a smallest subset of the data. As is well known, various algorithms may be used to determine what data is stored in what levels of this overall hierarchy. In general, it may be saidthat the more recently a datum has been used, or the more likely it is to be needed soon, the closer it will be held to the processor.

The presence or absence of valid data at various points in the hierarchical storage structure has implications on another drawback of the prior art processors, including control speculating processors. The various components within theirexecution cores are designed such that they cannot perform "data speculation", in which a processor guesses what values data will have (or, more precisely, the processor assumes that presently-available data values are correct and identical to the valuesthat will ultimately result, and uses those values as inputs for one or more operations), rather than which way branches will go. Data speculation may involve speculating that data presently available from a cache are identical to the true values thatthose data should have, or that data presently available at the output of some execution unit are identical to the true values that will result when the execution unit completes its operation, or the like.

Like control speculating processors' recovery mechanisms, data speculating processors must have some mechanism for recovering from having incorrectly assumed that data values are correct, to maintain program and data integrity as though no dataspeculation were taking place. Data speculation is made more difficult by the hierarchical storage system, especially when it is coupled with a microarchitecture which uses different clock frequencies for various portions of the execution environment.

It is well-known that every processor is adapted to execute instructions of its particular "architecture". In other words, every processor executes a particular instruction set, which is encoded in a particular machine language. Someprocessors, such as the Pentium Pro processor, decode those "macro-instructions" down into "micro-instructions" or "uops", which may be thought of as the machine language of the micro-architecture and which are directly executed by the processor'sexecution units. It is also well-known that other processors, such as those of the RISC variety, may directly execute their macro-instructions without breaking them down into micro-instructions. For purposes of the present invention, the term"instruction" should be considered to cover any or all of these cases.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention provides a microprocessor having two or more levels of execution sub-core each clocked at different frequencies. The processor may also have an I/O ring, which may be clocked at yet another frequency. Clock division ormultiplication may be used between the various levels, to derive the various clocks from a common clock, such as the I/O clock, which may be provided from off-chip. Having the different clock domains enables the designer to make trade-offs in the designof various components of the chip, such as individual execution units, instruction fetch and decode units, register files, caches, and the like. Thus, selected components can be designed to operate at a very high frequency, without requiring the entirechip to be designed to operate at this frequency. Less latency-critical units, or those whose required throughput can be obtained by twice as many units running at half the clock speed, can be relegated to the slower sections of the chip, easing theirdesign considerably.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a prior art processor having an I/O ring and an execution core operating at different clock speeds.

FIG. 2 demonstrates a hierarchical memory structure such as is well known in the art.

FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating the processor of the present invention, and showing a plurality of execution core sections each having its own clock frequency.

FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating a mode in which the processor of FIG. 3 includes yet another sub-core with its own clock frequency.

FIG. 5 is a block diagram illustrating a different mode in which the sub-core is not nested as shown in FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating a partitioning of the execution core.

FIG. 7 is a block diagram illustrating one embodiment of the replay architecture of the present invention, which permits data speculation.

FIG. 8 illustrates one embodiment of the checker unit of the replay architecture.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 3 illustrates the high-speed sub-core 205 of the processor 200 of the present invention. The high-speed sub-core includes the most latency-intolerant portions of the particular architecture and/or microarchitecture employed by theprocessor. For example, in an Intel Architecture processor, certain arithmetic and logic functions, as well as data cache access, may be the most unforgiving of execution latency.

Other functions, which are not so sensitive to execution latency, may be contained within a more latency-tolerant execution core 210. For example, in an Intel Architecture processor, execution of infrequently-executed instructions, such astranscendentals, may be relegated to the slower part of the core.

The processor 200 communicates with the rest of the system (not shown) via the I/O ring 215. If the I/O ring operates at a different clock frequency than the latency-tolerant execution core, the processor may include a clock mult/div unit 220which provides clock division or multiplication according to any suitable manner and conventional means. Because the latency-intolerant execution sub-core 205 operates at a higher frequency than the rest of the latency-tolerant execution core 210, theremay be a mechanism 225 for providing a different clock frequency to the latency-intolerant execution sub-core 205. In one mode, this is a clock mult/div unit 225.

FIG. 4 illustrates a refinement of the invention shown in FIG. 3. The processor 250 of FIG. 4 includes the I/O ring 215, clock mult/div unit 220, and latency-tolerant execution core 210. However, in place of the unitary sub-core (205) andclock mult/div unit (225) of FIG. 3, this improved processor 250 includes a latency-intolerant execution sub-core 255 and an even more latency-critical execution sub-core 260, with their clock mult/div units 265 and 270, respectively.

The skilled reader will appreciate that this is illustrative of a hierarchy of sub-cores, each of which includes those units which must operate at least as fast as the respective sub-core level. The skilled reader will further appreciate thatthe selection of what units go how deep into the hierarchy will be made according to various design constraints such as die area, clock skew sensitivity, design time remaining before tapeout date, and the like. In one mode, an Intel Architectureprocessor may advantageously include only its most common integer ALU functions and data storage portion of its data cache in the innermost sub-core. In one mode, the innermost sub-core may also include the register file; although, for reasons includingthose stated above concerning FIG. 2, the register file might not technically be needed to operate at the highest clock frequency, its design may be simplified by including it in a more inner sub-core that is strictly necessary. For example, it may bemore efficient to make twice as fast a register file with half as many ports, than vice versa.

In operation, the processor performs an I/O operation at the I/O ring and at the I/O clock frequency, such as to bring in a data item not presently available within the processor. Then, the latency-tolerant execution core may perform anexecution operation on the data item to produce a first result. Then, the latency-intolerant execution sub-core may perform an execution operation on the first result to produce a second result. Then, the latency-critical execution sub-core may performa third execution operation upon the second result to produce a third result. Those skilled in the art will understand that the flow of execution need not necessarily proceed in the strict order of the hierarchy of execution sub-cores. For example, thenewly read in data item could go immediately to the innermost core, and the result could go from there to any of the core sections or even back to the I/O ring for writeback.

FIG. 5 shows an embodiment which is slightly different than that of FIG. 4. The processor 280 includes the I/O ring 215, the execution cores 210, 255, 260, and the clock mult/div units 220, 265, 270. However, in this embodiment thelatency-critical execution sub-core 260 is not nested within the latency-intolerant execution core 255. In this mode, the clock mult/div units 265 and 270 perform different ratios of multiplication to enable their respective cores to run at differentspeeds.

In another slightly different mode (not shown), either of these cores might be clock-interfaced directly to the I/O ring or to the external world. In such a mode, clock mult/div units may not be required, if separate clock signals are providedfrom outside the processor.

It should be noted that the different speeds at which the various layers of sub-core operate may be in-use, operational speeds. It is known, for example in the Pentium processor, that certain units may be powered down when not in use, byreducing or halting their clock; in this case, the processor may have the bulk of its core running at 66 MHz while a sub-core such as the FPU is at substantially 0 MHz. While the present invention may be used in combination with such power-down or clockthrottling techniques, it is not limited to such cases.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that non-integer ratios may be applied at any of the boundaries, and that the combinations of clock ratios between the various rings is almost limitless, and that different baseline frequencies could beused at the I/O ring. It is also possible that the clock multiplication factors might not remain constant over time. For example, in some modes, the clock multiplication applied to the innermost sub-core could be adjusted up and down, for examplebetween 3.times. and 1.times. or between 2.times. and 0.times. or the like, when the higher frequency (and therefore higher power consumption and heat generation) are not needed. Also, the processor may be subjected to clock throttling or clockstop, in whole or in part. Or, the I/O clock might not be a constant frequency, in which case the other clocks may either scale accordingly, or they may implement some form of adaptive P/Q clocking scheme to maintain their desired performance level.

FIG. 6 illustrates somewhat more detail about one embodiment of the contents of the latency-critical execution sub-core 260 of FIG. 4. (It may also be understood to illustrate the contents of the sub-core 205 of FIG. 3 or the sub-core 255 ofFIG. 4.) The latency-tolerant execution core 210 includes components which are not latency-sensitive, but which are dependent only upon some level of throughput. In this sense, the latency-tolerant components may be thought of as the "plumbing" whosejob is simply to provide a particular "gallons per minute" throughput, in which a "big pipe" is as good as a "fast flow".

For example, in some architectures the fetch and decode units may not be terribly demanding on execution latency, and may thus be put in the latency-tolerant core 210 rather than the latency-intolerant sub-core 205, 255, 260. Likewise, themicrocode and register file may not need to be in the sub-core. In some architectures (or microarchitectures), the most latency-sensitive pieces are the arithmetic/logic functions and the cache. In the mode shown in FIG. 6, only a subset of thearithmetic/logic functions are deemed to be sufficiently latency-sensitive that it is warranted to put them into the sub-core, as illustrated by critical ALU 300.

In some embodiments, the critical ALU functions include adders, subtractors, and logic units for performing AND, OR, and the like. In some embodiments which use index register addressing, such as the Intel Architecture, the critical ALUfunctions may also include a small, special-purpose shifter for doing address generation by scaling the index register. In some embodiments, the register file may reside in the latency-critical execution core, for design convenience; the faster the coresection the register file is in, the fewer ports the register file needs.

The functions which are generally more latency-sensitive than the plumbing are those portions which are of a recursive nature, or those which include a dependency chain. Execution is a prime example of this concept; execution tends to berecursive or looping, and includes both false and true data dependencies both between and within iterations and loops.

Current art in high performance computer design (e.g. the Pentium Pro processor) already exploits most of the readily exploitable parallelism in a large class of important low P programs. It becomes extraordinarily difficult or even practicallyimpossible to greatly increase P for these programs. In this case there is no alternative to reducing the average latency if it is desired to build a processor to run these programs faster.

On the other hand, there are certain other functions such as for example, instruction decode, or register renaming. While it is essential that these functions are performed, current art has it arranged that the lapsed time for performing thesefunctions may have an effect on performance only when a branch has been miss predicted. A branch is miss predicted typically once in fifty instructions on average. Hence one nanosecond longer to do decoding or register renaming provides the equivalentof 1/50 nanoseconds increase in average instruction execution latency while one nanosecond increase in the time to execute an instruction increases the average instruction latency by one nanosecond. We may conclude that the time it takes to decodeinstructions or rename registers, for example, is significantly less critical than the time it takes to execute instructions.

There are still other functions that must be performed in a processor. Many of these functions are even more highly leveraged than decoding and register renaming. For these functions 1 nsec increase in the time to perform them may add evenless than 1/50 nanoseconds to the average execution latency. We may conclude that the time it takes to do these functions is even less critical.

As shown, the other ALU functions 305 can be relegated to the less speedy core 210. Further, in the mode shown in FIG. 6, only a subset of the cache needs to be inside the sub-core. As illustrated, only the data storage portion 310 of thecache is inside the sub-core, while the hit/miss logic and tags are in the slower core 210. This is in contrast to the conventional wisdom, which is that the hit/miss signal is needed at the same time as the data. A recent paper implied that thehit/miss signal is the limiting factor on cache speed (Austin, Todd M, "Streamlining Data Cache Access with Fast Address Calculation", Dionisios N. Pneumatikatos, Giandinar S. Sohi, Proceedings of the 22nd Annual International Symposium on ComputerArchitecture, Jun. 18-24, 1995, Session 8, No. 1, page 5). Unfortunately, hit/miss determination is more difficult and more time-consuming than the simple matter of reading data contents from cache locations.

Further, the instruction cache (not shown) may be entirely in the core 210, such that the cache 310 stores only data. The instruction cache (Icache) is accessed speculatively. It is the business of branch prediction to predict where the flowof the program will go, and the Icache is accessed on the basis of that prediction. Branch prediction methods commonly used today can predict program flow without ever seeing the instructions in the Icache. If such a method is used, then the Icache isnot latency-sensitive, and becomes more bandwidth-constrained than latency-constrained, and can be relegated to a lower clock frequency portion of the execution core.

The branch prediction itself could be latency-sensitive, so it would be a good candidate for a fast cycle time in one of the inner sub-core sections.

At first glance, one might think that the innermost sub-core 205, 255, or 260 of FIG. 6 would therefore hold the data which is stored at the top of the memory hierarchy of FIG. 2, that is, the data which is stored in the registers. However, asis illustrated in FIG. 6, the register file need not be contained within the sub-core, but may, instead, be held in the less speedy portion of the core 210. In the mode of FIGS. 3 or 4, the register file may be stored in any of the core sections 205,210, 255, 260, as suits the particular embodiment chosen. As shown in FIG. 6, the reason that the register file is not required to be within the innermost core is that the data which result from operations performed in the critical ALU 300 are availableon a bypass bus 315 as soon as they are calculated. By appropriate operation of multiplexors (in any conventional manner), these data can be made available to the critical ALU 300 in the next clock cycle of the sub-core, far sooner than they could bewritten to and then read from the register file.

Similarly, if data speculation is permitted, that is, if the critical ALU is allowed to perform calculations upon operands which are not yet known to be valid, portions of the data cache need not reside within the innermost sub-core. In thismode, the data cache 310 holds only the actual data, while the hit/miss logic and cache tags reside in a slower portion 210 of the core. In this mode, data from the data cache 310 are provided over an inner bus 320 and muxed into the critical ALU, andthe critical ALU performs operations assuming those data to be valid.

Some number of clock cycles later, the hit/miss logic or the tag logic in the outer core may signal that the speculated data is, in fact, invalid. In this case, there must be a means provided to recover from the speculative operations whichhave been performed. This includes not only the specific operations which used the incorrect, speculated data as input operands, but also any subsequent operations which used the outputs of those specific operations as inputs. Also, the erroneouslygenerated outputs may have subsequently been used to determine branching operations, such as if the erroneously generated output is used as a branch address or as a branch condition. If the processor performs control speculation, there may have alsobeen errors in that operation as well.

The present invention provides a replay mechanism for recovering from data speculation upon data which ultimately prove to have been incorrect. In one mode, the replay mechanism may reside outside the innermost core, because it is not terriblylatency-critical. While the replay architecture is described in conjunction with a multiple-clock-speed execution engine which performs data speculation, it will be appreciated that the replay architecture may be used with a wide variety ofarchitectures and micro-architectures, including those which perform data speculation and those which do not, those which perform control speculation and those which do not, those which perform in-order execution and those which perform out-of-orderexecution, and so forth.

FIG. 7 illustrates one implementation of such a replay architecture, generally showing the data flow of the architecture. First, an instruction is fetched into the instruction cache.

From the instruction cache, the instruction proceeds to a renamer such as a register alias table. In sophisticated microarchitectures which permit data speculation and/or control speculation, it is highly desirable to decouple the actualmachine from the specific registers indicated by the instruction. This is especially true in an architecture which is register-poor, such as the Intel Architecture. Renamers are well known, and the details of the renamer are not particularly germane toan understanding of the present invention. Any conventional renamer will suffice. It is desirable that it be a single-valued and single-assignment renamer, such that each instance of a given instruction will write to a different register, although theinstruction specifies the same register. The renamer provides a separate storage location for each different value that each logical register assumes, so that no such value of any logical register is prematurely lost (i.e. before the program is throughwith that value), over a well-defined period of time.

From the renamer, the instruction proceeds to an optional scheduler such as a reservation station, where instructions are reordered to improve execution efficiency. The scheduler is able to detect when it is not allowed to issue furtherinstructions. For example, there may not be any available execution slots into which a next instruction could be issued. Or, another unit may for some reason temporarily disable the scheduler. In some embodiments, the scheduler may reside in thelatency-critical execution core, if the particular scheduling algorithm can schedule only single latency generation per cycle, and is therefore tied to the latency of the critical ALU functions.

From the renamer or the optional scheduler, the instruction proceeds to the execution core 205, 210, 255, 260 (indirectly through a multiplexor to be described below), where it is executed. After or simultaneous with its execution, an addressassociated with the instruction is sent to the translation lookaside buffer (TLB) and cache tag lookup logic (TAG). This address may be, for example, the address (physical or logical) of a data operand which the instruction requires. From the TLB andTAG logic, the physical address referenced and the physical address represented in the cache location accessed are passed to the hit/miss logic, which determines whether the cache location accessed in fact contained the desired data.

In one mode, if the instruction being executed reads memory, the execution logic gives the highest priority to generating perhaps only a portion of the address, but enough that data may be looked up in the high speed data cache. In this mode,this partial address is used with the highest priority to retrieve data from the data cache, and only as a secondary priority is a complete virtual address, or in the case of the Intel Architecture, a complete linear address, generated and sent to theTLB and cache TAG lookup logic.

Because the critical ALU functions and the data cache are in the innermost sub-core--or are at least in a portion of the processor which runs at a higher clock rate than the TLB and TAG logic and the hit/miss logic--some data will have alreadybeen obtained from the data cache and the processor will have already speculatively executed the instruction which needed that data, the processor having assumed the data that was obtained to have been correct, and the processor likely having alsoexecuted additional instructions using that data or the results of the first speculatively executed instruction.

Therefore, the replay architecture includes a checker unit which receives the output of the hit/miss logic. If a miss is indicated, the checker causes a "replay" of the offending instruction and any which depended on it or which were otherwiseincorrect as a result of the erroneous data speculation. When the instruction was handed from the reservation station to the execution core, a copy of it was forwarded to a delay unit which provides a delay latency which matches the time the instructionwill take to get through the execution core, TLB/TAG, and hit/miss units, so that the copy arrives at the checker at about the same time that the hit/miss logic tells the checker that the data speculation was incorrect. In one mode, this is roughly10-12 clocks of the inner core. In FIG. 7, the delay unit is shown as being outside the checker. In other embodiments, the delay unit may be incorporated as a part of the checker. In some embodiments, the checker may reside within the latency-criticalexecution core, if the checking algorithm is tied to the critical ALU speed.

When the checker determines that data speculation was incorrect, the checker sends the copy of the instruction back around for a "replay". The checker forwards the copy of the instruction to a buffer unit. It may happen as an unrelated eventthat the TLB/TAG unit informs the buffer that the TLB/TAG is inserting a manufactured instruction in the current cycle. This information is needed by the buffer so the buffer knows not to reinsert another instruction in the same cycle. Both the TLB/TAGand the buffer also inform the scheduler when they are inserting instructions, so the scheduler knows not to dispatch an instruction in that same cycle. These control signals are not shown but will be understood by those skilled in the art.

The buffer unit provides latching of the copied instruction, to prevent it from getting lost if it cannot immediately be handled. In some embodiments, there may be conditions under which it may not be possible to reinsert replayed instructionsimmediately. In these conditions, the buffer holds them--perhaps a large number of them--until they can be reinserted. One such condition may be that there may be some higher priority function that could claim execution, such as when the TLB/TAG unitneeds to insert a manufactured instruction, as mentioned above. In some other embodiments, the buffer may not be necessary.

Earlier, it was mentioned that the scheduler's output was provided to the execution core indirectly, through a multiplexor. The function of this multiplexor is to select among several possible sources of instructions being sent for execution. The first source is, of course, the scheduler, in the case when it is an original instruction which is being sent for execution. The second source is the buffer unit, in the case when it is a copy of an instruction which is being sent for replayexecution. A third source is illustrated as being from the TLB/TAG unit; this permits the architecture to manufacture "fake instructions" and inject them into the instruction stream. For example, the TLB logic or TAG logic many need to get another unitto do some work for them, such as to read some data from the data cache as might be needed to evict that data, or for refilling the TLB, or other purposes, and they can do this by generating instructions which did not come from the real instructionstream, and then inserting those instructions back at the multiplexor input to the execution core.

The mux control scheme may, in one mode, include a priority scheme wherein a replay instruction has higher priority than an original instruction. This is advantageous because a replay instruction is probably older than the original instructionin the original macroinstruction flow, and may be a "blocking" instruction such as if there is a true data dependency.

It is desirable to get replayed instructions finished as quickly as possible. As long as there are unresolved instructions sent to replay, new instructions that are dispatched have a fairly high probability of being dependent on somethingunresolved and therefore of just getting added to the list of instructions that need to be replayed. As soon as it is necessary to replay one instruction, that one instruction tends to grow a long train of instructions behind it that follows it around. The processor can quickly get in a mode where most instructions are getting executed two or three times, and such a mode may persist for quite a while. Therefore, resolving replayed instructions is very much preferable to introducing new instructions.

Each new instruction introduced while there are things to replay is a gamble. There is a certain probability the new instruction will be independent and some work will get done. On the other hand, there is a certain probability that the newinstruction will be dependent and will also need to be replayed. Worse, there may be a number of instructions to follow that will be dependent on the new instruction, and all of those will have to be replayed, too, whereas if the machine had waiteduntil the replays were resolved, then all of these instructions would not have to execute twice.

In one mode, a manufactured instruction may have higher priority than a replay instruction. This is advantageous because these manufactured instructions may be used for critically important and time-sensitive operations. One such sensitiveoperation is an eviction. After a cache miss, new data will be coming from the L1 cache. When that data arrives, it must be put in the data cache (L0) as quickly as possible. If that is done, the replayed load will just meet the new data and will nowbe successful. If the data is even one cycle late getting the data there, the replayed load will pass again too soon and must again be replayed. Unfortunately, the data cache location where the processor is going to put the data is now holding the oneand only copy of some data that was written some time ago. In other words, the location is "dirty". It is necessary to read the dirty data out, to save it before the new data arrives and is written in its place. This reading of the old data is called"evicting" the data. In some embodiments, there is just exactly enough time to complete the eviction before starting to write the new data in its place. The eviction is done with one or more manufactured instructions. If they are held up for even onecycle, the eviction does not occur in time to avoid the problem described above, and therefore they must be given the highest priority.

The replay architecture may also be used to enable the processor to in effect "stall" without actually slowing down the execution core or performing clock throttling or the like. There are some circumstances where it would be necessary to stallthe frontend and/or execution core, to avoid losing the results of instructions or to avoid other such problems. One example is where the processor's backend temporarily runs out of resources such as available registers into which to write executionresults. Other examples include where the external bus is blocked, an upper level of cache is busy being snooped by another processor, a load or store crosses page boundary, an exception occurs, or the like.

In such circumstances, rather than halt the frontend or throttle the execution core, the replay architecture may very simply be used to send back around for replay all instructions whose results would be otherwise lost. The execution coreremains functioning at full speed, and there are no additional signal paths required for stalling the frontend, beyond those otherwise existing to permit the multiplexor to give priority to replay instructions over original instructions.

Other stall-like uses can be made of the replay architecture. For example, assume that a store address instruction misses in the TLB. Rather than saving the linear address to process after getting the proper entry in the TLB, the processor canjust drop it on the floor and request the store address instruction to be replayed. As another example, the Page Miss Handler (not shown) may be busy. In this case the processor does not even remember that it needs to do a page walk, but finds that outover again when the store address comes back.

Most cases of running out of resources occur when there is a cache miss. There could well be no fill buffer left, so the machine can't even request an L1 lookup. Or, the L1 may be busy. When a cache miss happens, the machine MAY ask for thedata from a higher level cache and MAY just forget the whole thing and not do anything at all to help the situation. In either case, the load (or store address) instruction is replayed. Unlike a more conventional architecture, the present inventiondoes not NEED to remember this instruction in the memory subsystem and take care of it. The processor will do something to help it if it has the resources to do something. If not, it may do nothing at all, not even remember that such a instruction wasseen by the memory subsystem. The memory subsystem, by itself, will never do anything for this instance of the instruction. When the instruction executes again, then it is considered all over again. In the case of a store address instruction, theinstruction has delivered its linear address to the memory subsystem and it doesn't want anything back. A more conventional approach might be to say that this instruction is done, and any problems from here on out are memory subsystem problems, in whichcase the memory subsystem must then store information about this store address until it can get resources to take care of it. The present approach is that the store address replays, and the memory subsystem does not have to remember it at all. Here itis a little more clear that the processor is replaying the store address specifically because of inability to handle it in the memory subsystem.

In one mode, when an instruction gets replayed, all dependent instructions also get replayed. This may include all those which used the replayed instruction's output as input, all those which are down control flow branches picked according tothe replayed instruction, and so forth.

The processor does not replay instructions merely because they are control flow dependent on an instruction that replayed. The thread of control was predicted. The processor is always following a predicted thread of control and nevernecessarily knows during execution if it is going the right way or not. If a branch gets bad input, the branch instruction itself is replayed. This is because the processor cannot reliably determine from the branch if the predicted thread of control isright or not, since the input data to the branch was not valid. No other instructions get replayed merely because the branch got bad data. Eventually--possibly after many replays--the branch will be correctly executed. At this time, it does what allbranches do--it reports if the predicted direction taken for this branch was correct or not. If it was correctly predicted, everything goes on about its business. If it was not correctly predicted, then there is simply a branch misprediction; the factthat this branch was replayed any number of times makes no difference. A mispredicted branch cannot readily be repaired with a replay. A replay can only execute exactly the same instructions over again. If a branch was mispredicted, the processor haslikely done many wrong instructions and needs to actually execute some completely different instructions.

To summarize: A instruction is replayed either: 1) because the instruction itself was not correctly processed for any reason, or 2) if the input data that this instruction uses is not known to be correct. Data is known to be correct if it isproduced by a instruction that is itself correctly processed and all of its input data is known to be correct. In this definition, branches are viewed not as having anything to do with the control flow but as data handling instructions which simplyreport interesting things to the front end of the machine but do not produce any output data that can be used by any other instruction. Hence, the correctness of any other instruction cannot have anything to do with them. The correctness of the controlflow is handled by a higher authority and is not in the purview of mere execution and replay.

FIG. 8 illustrates more about the checker unit. Again, a instruction is replayed if: 1) it was not processed correctly, or 2) if it used input data that is not known to be correct. These two conditions give a good division for discussing theoperation of the checker unit. The first condition depends on everything that needs to be done for the instruction. Anything in the machine that needs to do something to correctly execute the instruction is allowed to goof and to signal to the checkerthat it goofed. The first condition is therefore talking about signals that come into the checker, potentially from many places, that say, "I goofed on this instruction."

In some embodiments, the most common goof is the failure of the data cache to supply the correct result for a load. This is signaled by the hit/miss logic. Another common goof is failure to correctly process a store address; this wouldtypically result from a TLB miss on a store address, but there can be other causes, too. In some embodiments, the L1 cache may deliver data (which may go into the L0 cache and be used by instructions) that contains an ECC error. This would be signaledquickly, and then corrected as time permits.

In some fairly rare cases, the adder cannot correctly add two numbers. This is signaled by the flag logic which keeps tabs on the adders. In some other rare cases, the logic unit fails to get the correct answer when doing an AND, XOR, or othersimple logic operation. These, too, are signaled by the flag logic. In some embodiments, the floating point unit may not get the correct answer all of the time, in which case it will signal when it goofs a floating point operation. In of principle,you could use this mechanism for many types of goofs. It could be used for algorithmic goofs and it could even be used for hardware errors (circuit goofs). Regardless the cause, whenever the processor doesn't do exactly what it is supposed to do, andthe goof is detected, the processor's various units can request a replay by signaling to the checker.

The second condition which causes replays--whether data is known to be correct--is entirely the responsibility of the checker itself. The checker contains the official list of what data is known to be correct. It is what is sometimes calledthe "scoreboard". It is the checker's responsibility to look at all of the input data for each instruction execution instance and to determine if all such input data is known to be correct or not. It is also the checker's responsibility to add it allup for each instruction execution instance, to determine if the result produced by that instruction execution instance can therefore be deemed to be "known to be correct". If the result of a instruction is deemed "known to be correct", this is noted onthe scoreboard so the processor now has new, known-correct data that can be the input for other instructions.

FIG. 8 illustrates one exemplary checker which may be employed in practicing the architecture of the present invention. Because the details of the checker are not necessary in order to understand the invention, a simplified checker isillustrated to show the requirements for a checker sufficient to make the replay system work correctly.

In this embodiment, one instruction is processed per cycle. After an instruction has been executed, it is represented to the checker by signals OP1, OP1V, OP2, OPV2, DST, and a latency vector which was assigned to the uop by the decoder on thebasis of the opcode. The signals OP1V and OP2V indicate whether the instruction includes a first operand and a second operand, respectively. The signals OP1 and OP2 identify the physical source registers of the first and second operands, respectively,and are received at read address ports RA1 and RA2 of the scoreboard. The signal DST identifies the physical destination register where the result of the instruction was written.

The latency vector has all 0's except a 1 in one position. The position of the 1 denotes the latency of this instruction. An instruction's latency is how many cycles there are after the instruction begins execution before another instructioncan use its result. The scoreboard has one bit of storage for each physical register in the machine. The bit is 0 if that register is not known to contain correct data and it is 1 if that register is known to contain correct data.

The register renamer, described above, allocates these registers. At the time a physical register is allocated to hold the result of some instruction, the renamer sends the register number to the checker as multiple-bit signal CLEAR. Thescoreboard sets to 0 the scoreboard bit which is addressed by CLEAR.

The one or two register operands for the instruction currently being checked (as indicated by OP1 and OP2) are looked up in the scoreboard to see if they are known to be correct, and the results are output as scoreboard values SV1 and SV2,respectively. An AND gate 350 receives the first scoreboard value SV1 and the first operand valid signal OP1V. Mother AND gate 355 similarly receives signals SV2 and OP2V for the second operand. The operand valid signals OP1V and OP2V cause thescoreboard values SV1 and SV2 to be ignored if the instruction does not actually require those respective operands.

The outputs of the AND gates are provided to NOR gate 360, along with an external replay request signal. The output of the NOR gate will be false if either operand is required by the instruction and is not known to be correct, or if theexternal replay request signal is asserted. Otherwise the output will be true. The output of the NOR gate 360 is the checker output INSTRUCTION OK. If it is true, the instruction was completed correctly and is ready to be considered for retirement. If it is false, the instruction must be replayed.

A delay line receives the destination register identifier DST and the checker output INSTRUCTION OK information for the instruction currently being checked. The simple delay line shown is constructed of registers (single cycle delays) andmuxes. It will be understood that each register and mux is a multiple-bit device, or represents multiple single-bit devices. Those skilled in the art will understand that various other types of delay lines, and therefore different formats of latencyvectors, could be used.

The DST and INSTRUCTION OK information is inserted in one location of the delay line, as determined by the value of the latency vector. This information is delayed for the required number of cycles according to the latency vector, and then itis applied to the write port WP of the scoreboard. The scoreboard bit corresponding to the destination register DST for the instruction is then written according to the value of INSTRUCTION OK. A value of 1 indicates that the instruction did not haveto be replayed, and a value of 0 indicates that the instruction did have to be replayed, meaning that its result data is not known to be correct.

In this design, it is assumed that no instruction has physical register zero as a real destination or as a real source. If there is no valid instruction in some cycle, the latency vector for that cycle will be all zeros. This will effectivelyenter physical register zero with the longest possible latency into the delay line, which is harmless. Similarly, an instruction that does not have a real destination register will specify a latency vector of all zeros. It is further assumed that atstartup, this unit runs for several cycles with no valid instructions arriving, so as to fill the delay line with zeros before the first real instruction has been allocated a destination register, and hence before the corresponding bit in the scoreboardhas been cleared. The scoreboard needs no additional initialization.

Potentially, this checker checks one instruction per cycle (but other embodiments are of course feasible). The cycle in which an instruction is checked is a fixed number of cycles after that instruction began execution and captured the datathat it used for its operands. This number of cycles later is sufficient to allow the EXTERNAL REPLAY REQUEST signal for the instruction to arrive at the checker to be processed along with the other information about the instruction. The EXTERNALREPLAY REQUEST signal is the OR of all signals from whatever parts of the machine may produce replay requests that indicate that the instruction was not processed correctly. For example it may indicate that data returned from the data cache may not havebeen correct, for any of many reasons, a good example being that there was a cache miss.

It should be appreciated by the skilled reader that the particular partitionings described above are illustrative only. For example, although it has been suggested that certain features may be relegated to the outermost core 210, it may bedesirable that certain of these reside in a mid-level portion of the core, such as in the latency-intolerant core 255 of FIG. 4, between the outermost core 210 and the innermost core 260. It should also be appreciated that although the invention hasbeen described with reference to the Intel Architecture processors, it is useful in any number of alternative architectures, and with a wide variety of microarchitectures within each.

While the invention has been described with reference to specific modes and embodiments, for ease of explanation and understanding, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the invention is not necessarily limited to the particular featuresshown herein, and that the invention may be practiced in a variety of ways which fall under the scope and spirit of this disclosure. The invention is, therefore, to be afforded the fullest allowable scope of the claims which follow.

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