Multiscale Co-Design Analysis of Energy, Latency, Area, and Accuracy of a ReRAM Analog Neural Training Accelerator

M. J. Marinella, S. Agarwal, A. Hsia, I. Richter, R. Jacobs-Gedrim, J. Niroula, S. J. Plimpton, E. Ipek, C. D. James, IEEE Journal on Emerging and Selected Topics in Circuits and Systems, 8, 86-101 (2018).

Neural networks are an increasingly attractive algorithm for natural language processing and pattern recognition. Deep networks with >50 M parameters are made possible by modern graphics processing unit clusters operating at <50 pJ per op and more recently, production accelerators are capable of <5 pJ per operation at the board level. However, with the slowing of CMOS scaling, new paradigms will be required to achieve the next several orders of magnitude in performance per watt gains. Using an analog resistive memory (ReRAM) crossbar to perform key matrix operations in an accelerator is an attractive option. This paper presents a detailed design using the state-of-the-art 14/16 nm process development kit for of an analog crossbar circuit block designed to process three key kernels required in training and inference of neural networks. A detailed circuit and device-level analysis of energy, latency, area, and accuracy are given and compared with relevant designs using standard digital ReRAM and static random access memory (SRAM) operations. It is shown that the analog accelerator has 270x energy and 540x latency advantage over a similar block utilizing only digital ReRAM and takes only 11 fJ per multiply and accumulate. Compared with an SRAM-based accelerator, the energy is 430x better and latency is 34x better. Although training accuracy is degraded in the analog accelerator, several options to improve this are presented. The possible gains over a similar digital-only version of this accelerator block suggest that continued optimization of analog resistive memories is valuable. This detailed circuit and device analysis of a training accelerator may serve as a foundation for further architecture-level studies.

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