A Fast Analytical Model of Fully Associative Caches

Gysi, Tobias and Grosser, Tobias and Brandner, Laurin and Hoefler, Torsten


While the cost of computation is an easy to understand local property, the cost of data movement on cached architectures depends on global state, does not compose, and is hard to predict. As a result, programmers often fail to consider the cost of data movement. Existing cache models and simulators provide the missing information but are computationally expensive. We present a lightweight cache model for fully associative caches with least recently used (LRU) replacement policy that gives fast and accurate results. We count the cache misses without explicit enumeration of all memory accesses by using symbolic counting techniques twice: 1) to derive the stack distance for each memory access and 2) to count the memory accesses with stack distance larger than the cache size. While this technique seems infeasible in theory, due to non-linearities after the first round of counting, we show that the counting problems are sufficiently linear in practice. Our cache model often computes the results within seconds and contrary to simulation the execution time is mostly problem size independent. Our evaluation measures modeling errors below 0.6% on real hardware. By providing accurate data placement information we enable memory hierarchy aware software development.


Publication | Preprint |