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Persistent Fault Analysis of Neural Networks on FPGA-based Acceleration System

Dawen Xu1,2, Ziyang Zhu1,2, Cheng Liu1, Ying Wang1, Huawei Li1, Lei Zhang1 and Kwang-Ting Cheng3

1 Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China 2 Hefei University of Technology, China 3 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong


The increasing hardware failures caused by the shrinking semiconductor technologies pose substantial influence on the neural accelerators and improving the resilience of the neural network execution becomes a great design challenge especially to mission-critical applications such as self-driving and medical diagnose. The reliability analysis of the neural network execution is a key step to understand the influence of the hardware failures, and thus is highly demanded. Prior works typically conducted the fault analysis of neural network accelerators with simulation and concentrated on the prediction accuracy loss of the models. There is still a lack of systematic fault analysis of the neural network acceleration system that considers both the accuracy degradation and system exceptions such as system stall and early termination.
In this work, we implemented a representative neural network accelerator and fault injection modules on a Xilinx ARM-FPGA platform and conducted fault analysis of the system using four typical neural network models. We had the system open-sourced on github. With comprehensive experiments, we identify the system exceptions based on the various abnormal behaviours of the FPGA-based neural network acceleration system and analyze the underlying reasons. Particularly, we find that the probability of the system exceptions dominates the reliability of the system and they are mainly caused by faults in the DMA, control unit and instruction memory of the accelerators. In addition, faults in these components also incur moderate accuracy degradation of the neural network models other than the system exceptions. Thus, these components are the most fragile part of the accelerators and need to be hardened for reliable neural network execution.


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