COBRA: A Framework for Evaluating Compositions of Hardware Branch Predictors


We present COBRA, a framework which enables a realistic hardware-guided methodology for evaluating compositions of hardware branch predictors. COBRA provides a common interface for developing RTL implementations of predictor subcomponents, as well as a predictor composer that automatically generates hardware predictor pipelines from sub-components based on a high-level topological model of a desired algorithm. We demonstrate how COBRA aids in the design and evaluation of diverse predictor architectures and how our hardware-centric approach captures concerns in predictor characterization that are not exposed in software-based algorithm development. Using COBRA, we generate three superscalar pipelined branch predictors with diverse architectures, synthesize them to run at 1 GHz on a commercial FinFET process, integrate them with the open-source BOOM out-of-order core, and evaluate their end-to-end performance on workloads over trillions of cycles. The COBRA generator system has been open-sourced as part of the SonicBOOM out-of-order core.

In Proceedings of the 2021 IEEE International Symposium on Performance Analysis of Systems and Software (ISPASS'21), Virtual On-Line Meeting, March 2021