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vMCU: Coordinated Memory Management and Kernel Optimization for DNN Inference on MCUs

Size Zheng · Renze Chen · Meng Li · Zihao Ye · Luis Ceze · Yun Liang

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Thu 16 May 9 a.m. PDT — 9:20 a.m. PDT

Abstract: IoT devices based on microcontroller units (MCU) provide ultra-low power consumption and ubiquitous computation for near-sensor deep learning models (DNN).However, the memory of MCU is usually 2-3 orders of magnitude smaller than mobile devices, which makes it challenging to map DNNs onto MCUs.Previous work separates memory management and kernel implementation for MCU and relies on coarse-grained memory management techniques such as inplace update to reduce memory consumption.In this paper, we propose to coordinate memory management and kernel optimization for DNN inference on MCUs to enable fine-grained memory management. The key idea is to virtualize the limited memory of MCU as a large memory pool. Each kernel divides the memory pool into kernel-specific segments and handles segment load and store while computing DNN layers.Memory consumption can be reduced because using the fine-grained segment-level memory control, we can overlap the memory footprint of different tensors without the need to materialize them at the same time. Following this idea, we implement \ours{} for DNN inference on MCU.Evaluation for single layers on ARM Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M7 processors shows that \ours{} can reduce from $12.0\%$ to $49.5\%$ RAM usage and from $20.6\%$ to $53.0\%$ energy consumption compared to state-of-the-art work. For full DNN evaluation, \ours{} can reduce the memory bottleneck by $61.5\%$, enabling more models to be deployed on low-end MCUs.

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