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With the emergence of on-chip networks, the power consumed by router buffers has become a primary concern. Bufferless flow control has been proposed to address this issue by removing router buffers and handling contention by dropping or deflecting flits. In this thesis, we compare virtual-channel (buffered) and deflection (packet-switched bufferless) flow control. Our study shows that unless process constraints lead to excessively costly buffers, the performance, cost and increased complexity of deflection flow control outweigh its potential gains. To provide buffering in the network but without the cost and timing overhead of router buffers, we propose elastic buffer (EB) flow control which adds simple control logic in the channels to use pipeline flip-flops (FFs) as EBs with two storage locations. This way, channels act as distributed FIFOs and input buffers as well as the complexity for virtual channels (VCs) are no longer required. Therefore, EB networks have a shorter cycle time and offer more throughput per unit power than VC networks. We also propose a hybrid EB-VC router which is used to provide traffic separation for a number of traffic classes large enough for duplicate physical channels to be inefficient. These hybrid routers offer more throughput per unit power than both EB and VC routers. Finally, this thesis proposes packet chaining, which addresses the tradeoff between allocation quality and cycle time traditionally present in routers with VCs. Packet chaining is a simple and effective method to increase allocator matching efficiency to be comparable or superior to more complex and slower allocators without extending cycle time, particularly suited to networks with short packets.
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