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COMET: A Cross-Layer Optimized Optical Phase Change Main Memory Architecture

Febin SunnyAmin ShafieeBenoit CharbonnierMahdi NikdastSudeep Pasricha
Nov 2023
Traditional DRAM-based main memory systems face several challenges with memory refresh overhead, high latency, and low throughput as the industry moves towards smaller DRAM cells. These issues have been exacerbated by the emergence of data-intensive applications in recent years. Memories based on phase change materials (PCMs) offer promising solutions to these challenges. PCMs store data in the material's phase, which can shift between amorphous and crystalline states when external thermal energy is supplied. This is often achieved using electrical pulses. Alternatively, using laser pulses and integration with silicon photonics offers a unique opportunity to realize high-bandwidth and low-latency photonic memories. Such a memory system may in turn open the possibility of realizing fully photonic computing systems. But to realize photonic memories, several challenges that are unique to the photonic domain such as crosstalk, optical loss management, and laser power overhead have to be addressed. In this work, we present COMET, the first cross-layer optimized optical main memory architecture that uses PCMs. In architecting COMET, we explore how to use silicon photonics and PCMs together to design a large-scale main memory system while addressing associated challenges. We explore challenges and propose solutions at the PCM cell, photonic memory circuit, and memory architecture levels. Based on our evaluations, COMET offers 7.1x better bandwidth, 15.1x lower EPB, and 3x lower latencies than the best-known prior work on photonic main memory architecture design.
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