(Processing Systems Lab)

UniCaP for next-generation Integrated Voltage Regulation in SoCs

ALT Unified Clock and Power (UniCaP) combines the traditionally disparate clock and power sub-systems into a single control structure to enable unprecedented regulation capabilities, and the ability to virtually eliminate droop and temperature related supply-margins

Integrated Voltage Regulation (IVR) using buck converters enables efficient, fine-grained supply-voltage control in modern SoC domains. However, existing IVR implementations face several challenges. As voltage domains continue to shrink, reduced per-domain decoupling capacitance requires rapid IVR transient response, leading to unfavorable efficiency and supply droop margin trade-offs. Additionally, digital domains exhibit a wide load current (Iload) range, requiring capabilities for autonomous transition between Continuous Conduction Mode (CCM) and Discontinuous Conduction Mode (DCM). All-digital IVR solutions are particularly desirable for ease of integration in SoCs.

Several techniques have been proposed to address these IVR challenges, including adaptive clocking techniques that maintain timing-slack by injecting load-domain supply (Vdd) noise into Phase-locked Loops (PLLs) to modulate the clock period (Tclk). However, benefits observed using these techniques are limited by Vdd-delay sensitivity mismatch between critical paths and the PLL oscillator, and by the undesirable phase tracking mechanism of conventional PLLs. Importantly, existing adaptive clocking techniques are unable to completely restore cycles lost or gained during Vdd transients, a highly desirable feature for inter-domain data communication and real-time applications.

This project has resulted in a unified clock and power (UniCaP) architecture that exploits joint supply-voltage and phase/frequency control to aggressively reduce dissipative Vdd margins arising from supply-noise and temperature variation. In addition, UniCaP enables complete recovery of any cycles gained or lost during supply noise events.

Preliminary results on our research in this area were presented at ISSCC 2018