A reliable, secure phase-change memory as a main memory
Seong, Nak Hee
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The main objective of this research is to provide an efficient and reliable method for using multi-level cell (MLC) phase-change memory (PCM) as a main memory. As DRAM scaling approaches the physical limit, alternative memory technologies are being explored for future computing systems. Among them, PCM is the most mature with announced commercial products for NOR flash replacement. Its fast access latency and scalability have led researchers to investigate PCM as a feasible candidate for DRAM replacement. Moreover, the multi-level potential of PCM cells can enhance the scalability by increasing the number of bits stored in a cell. However, the two major challenges for adopting MLC PCM are the limited write endurance cycle and the resistance drift issue. To alleviate the negative impact of the limited write endurance cycle, this thesis first introduces a secure wear-leveling scheme called Security Refresh. In the study, this thesis argues that a PCM design not only has to consider normal wear-out under normal application behavior, most importantly, it must take the worst-case scenario into account with the presence of malicious exploits and a compromised OS to address the durability and security issues simultaneously. Security Refresh can avoid information leak by constantly migrating their physical locations inside the PCM, obfuscating the actual data placement from users and system software. In addition to the secure wear-leveling scheme, this thesis also proposes SAFER, a hardware-efficient multi-bit stuck-at-fault error recovery scheme which can function in conjunction with existing wear-leveling techniques. The limited write endurance leads to wear-out related permanent failures, and furthermore, technology scaling increases the variation in cell lifetime resulting in early failures of many cells. SAFER exploits the key attribute that a failed cell with a stuck-at value is still readable, making it possible to continue to use the failed cell to store data; thereby reducing the hardware overhead for error recovery. Another approach that this thesis proposes to address the lower write endurance is a hybrid phase-change memory architecture that can dynamically classify, detect, and isolate frequent writes from accessing the phase-change memory. This proposed architecture employs a small SRAM-based Isolation Cache with a detection mechanism based on a multi-dimensional Bloom filter and a binary classifier. The techniques are orthogonal to and can be combined with other wear-out management schemes to obtain a synergistic result. Lastly, this thesis quantitatively studies the current art for MLC PCM in dealing with the resistance drift problem and shows that the previous techniques such as scrubbing or error correction schemes are incapable of providing sufficient level of reliability. Then, this thesis proposes tri-level-cell (3LC) PCM and demonstrates that 3LC PCM can be a viable solution to achieve the soft error rate of DRAM and the performance of single-level-cell PCM.