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Understanding and Improving Modern DRAM Performance, Reliability, and Security with Hands-On Experiments

Course Description

DRAM is predominantly used to build the main memory systems of modern computing devices. To improve the performance, reliability, and security of DRAM, it is critical to perform experimental characterization and analysis of existing cutting-edge DRAM chips.

SoftMC is an FPGA-based DRAM testing infrastructure that enables the programmer to perform all low-level DRAM operations (i.e., DDR commands) in a cycle-accurate manner. SoftMC provides a simple and intuitive high-level programming interface (in C++) that completely hides the low-level details of the FPGA from programmers. Programmers implement test routines in C++, and the test routines automatically get translated into the low-level SoftMC memory controller operations in the FPGA. SoftMC developers write low-level hardware description language code to enable new and faster studies.

In this P&S, you will have the chance to learn how DRAM is organized and operates in a low-level and gain practical experience in using SoftMC while developing SoftMC programs for new DRAM characterization studies related to performance, reliability, and security. You may also improve the SoftMC infrastructure itself to enable new studies. And, who knows, you might discover new security vulnerabilities like RowHammer.

This will be the right P&S for you if you are interested in DRAM technology and would like to learn more about it as well as FPGA technology and how it can be used for practical purposes such as understanding and mitigating RowHammer attacks, generating true random numbers, reducing memory latency, fingerprinting and identifying devices, and improving reliability.

Prerequisites of the course:

  • Digital Design and Computer Architecture (or equivalent course)
  • Familiarity with FPGA programming
  • Interest in low-level hacking and memory
  • Interest in discovering why things do or do not work and solving problems

The course is conducted in English.

Course description page Moodle


Name E-mail Office
Lead Supervisor Hasan Hassan ETZ H 61.2
Supervisor Jeremie Kim ETZ H 61.1
Supervisor Lois Orosa ETZ H 61.2
Supervisor Minesh Patel ETZ H 61.2
Supervisor Giray Yaglikci ETZ H 61.2

2020 Meetings/Schedule

Week Date Meeting Learning Materials Assignments
W0 06.03
P&S SoftMC Tutorial
SoftMC Tutorial Slides
W1 10.03
M1: Logistics & Intro to DRAM and SoftMC
Required Materials
Recommended Materials

Learning Materials

Meeting 1: Required Materials

Meeting 1: Recommended Materials

More Learning Materials


HW0: Student Information (Due: 15.03)

softmc.txt · Last modified: 2021/03/11 09:39 by hhasan