Low-Power High-Performance Ternary Content Addressable Memory Circuits
Ternary content addressable memories (TCAMs) are hardware-based parallel lookup tables with bit-level masking capability. They are attractive for applications such as packet forwarding and classification in network routers. Despite the attractive features of TCAMs, high power consumption is one of the most critical challenges faced by TCAM designers. This work proposes circuit techniques for reducing TCAM power consumption. The main contribution of this work is divided in two parts: (i) reduction in match line (ML) sensing energy, and (ii) static-power reduction techniques. The ML sensing energy is reduced by employing (i) positive-feedback ML sense amplifiers (MLSAs), (ii) low-capacitance comparison logic, and (iii) low-power ML-segmentation techniques. The positive-feedback MLSAs include both resistive and active feedback to reduce the ML sensing energy. A body-bias technique can further improve the feedback action at the expense of additional area and ML capacitance. The measurement results of the active-feedback MLSA show 50-56% reduction in ML sensing energy. The measurement results of the proposed low-capacitance comparison logic show 25% and 42% reductions in ML sensing energy and time, respectively, which can further be improved by careful layout. The low-power ML-segmentation techniques include dual ML TCAM and charge-shared ML. Simulation results of the dual ML TCAM that connects two sides of the comparison logic to two ML segments for sequential sensing show 43% power savings for a small (4%) trade-off in the search speed. The charge-shared ML scheme achieves power savings by partial recycling of the charge stored in the first ML segment. Chip measurement results show that the charge-shared ML scheme results in 11% and 9% reductions in ML sensing time and energy, respectively, which can be improved to 19-25% by using a digitally controlled charge sharing time-window and a slightly modified MLSA. The static power reduction is achieved by a dual-VDD technique and low-leakage TCAM cells. The dual-VDD technique trades-off the excess noise margin of MLSA for smaller cell leakage by applying a smaller VDD to TCAM cells and a larger VDD to the peripheral circuits. The low-leakage TCAM cells trade off the speed of READ and WRITE operations for smaller cell area and leakage. Finally, design and testing of a complete TCAM chip are presented, and compared with other published designs.