Formal Verification and its Impact on the Snooping versus Directory Protocol Debate

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This invited paper argues that to facilitate formal verification, multiprocessor systems should (1) decouple enforcing coherence from enforcing a memory consistency model and (2) decouple the interconnection network from the cache coherence protocol (by not relying on any specific interconnect ordering or synchronicity properties). Of the two dominant classes of cache coherence protocols — directory protocols and snooping protocols — these two desirable properties favor use of directory protocols over snooping protocols. Although the conceptual simplicity of snooping protocols is seductive, aggressive implementations of snooping protocols lack these decoupling properties, making them perhaps more difficult in practice to reason about, verify, and implement correctly. Conversely, directory protocols may seem more complicated, but they are more amenable to these decoupling properties, which simplify protocol design and verification. Finally, this paper describes the recently-proposed token coherence protocol’s adherence to these properties and discusses some of its implications for future multiprocessor systems.

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Copyright 2005 IEEE. Reprinted from Proceedings of the 2005 International Conference on Computer Design (ICCD’05), pages 1-7. This material is posted here with permission of the IEEE. Such permission of the IEEE does not in any way imply IEEE endorsement of any of the University of Pennsylvania's products or services. Internal or personal use of this material is permitted. However, permission to reprint/republish this material for advertising or promotional purposes or for creating new collective works for resale or redistribution must be obtained from the IEEE by writing to By choosing to view this document, you agree to all provisions of the copyright laws protecting it.
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