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Title: NEBULA: A Neuromorphic Spin-Based Ultra-Low Power Architecture for SNNs and ANNs
Brain-inspired cognitive computing has so far followed two major approaches - one uses multi-layered artificial neural networks (ANNs) to perform pattern-recognition-related tasks, whereas the other uses spiking neural networks (SNNs) to emulate biological neurons in an attempt to be as efficient and fault-tolerant as the brain. While there has been considerable progress in the former area due to a combination of effective training algorithms and acceleration platforms, the latter is still in its infancy due to the lack of both. SNNs have a distinct advantage over their ANN counterparts in that they are capable of operating in an event-driven manner, thus consuming very low power. Several recent efforts have proposed various SNN hardware design alternatives, however, these designs still incur considerable energy overheads.In this context, this paper proposes a comprehensive design spanning across the device, circuit, architecture and algorithm levels to build an ultra low-power architecture for SNN and ANN inference. For this, we use spintronics-based magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) devices that have been shown to function as both neuro-synaptic crossbars as well as thresholding neurons and can operate at ultra low voltage and current levels. Using this MTJ-based neuron model and synaptic connections, we design a low power chip that has the flexibility to be deployed for inference of SNNs, ANNs as well as a combination of SNN-ANN hybrid networks - a distinct advantage compared to prior works. We demonstrate the competitive performance and energy efficiency of the SNNs as well as hybrid models on a suite of workloads. Our evaluations show that the proposed design, NEBULA, is up to 7.9× more energy efficient than a state-of-the-art design, ISAAC, in the ANN mode. In the SNN mode, our design is about 45× more energy-efficient than a contemporary SNN architecture, INXS. Power comparison between NEBULA ANN and SNN modes indicates that the latter is at least 6.25× more power-efficient for the observed benchmarks.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
2020 ACM/IEEE 47th Annual International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA)
Page Range / eLocation ID:
363 to 376
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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