Publications / Conference Poster

Designing an analog crossbar based neuromorphic accelerator

Agarwal, Sapan A.; Hsia, Alexander W.; Jacobs-Gedrim, Robin B.; Hughart, David R.; Plimpton, Steven J.; James, Conrad D.; Marinella, Matthew J.

Resistive memory crossbars can dramatically reduce the energy required to perform computations in neural algorithms by three orders of magnitude when compared to an optimized digital ASIC [1]. For data intensive applications, the computational energy is dominated by moving data between the processor, SRAM, and DRAM. Analog crossbars overcome this by allowing data to be processed directly at each memory element. Analog crossbars accelerate three key operations that are the bulk of the computation in a neural network as illustrated in Fig 1: vector matrix multiplies (VMM), matrix vector multiplies (MVM), and outer product rank 1 updates (OPU)[2]. For an NxN crossbar the energy for each operation scales as the number of memory elements O(N2) [2]. This is because the crossbar performs its entire computation in one step, charging all the capacitances only once. Thus the CV2 energy of the array scales as array size. This fundamentally better than trying to read or write a digital memory. Each row of any NxN digital memory must be accessed one at a time, resulting in N columns of length O(N) being charged N times, requiring O(N3) energy to read a digital memory. Thus an analog crossbar has a fundamental O(N) energy scaling advantage over a digital system. Furthermore, if the read operation is done at low voltage and is therefore noise limited, the read energy can even be independent of the crossbar size, O(1) [2].