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this_cpu operations
this_cpu operations are a way of optimizing access to per cpu
variables associated with the *currently* executing processor through
the use of segment registers (or a dedicated register where the cpu
permanently stored the beginning of the per cpu area for a specific
The this_cpu operations add a per cpu variable offset to the processor
specific percpu base and encode that operation in the instruction
operating on the per cpu variable.
This means there are no atomicity issues between the calculation of
the offset and the operation on the data. Therefore it is not
necessary to disable preempt or interrupts to ensure that the
processor is not changed between the calculation of the address and
the operation on the data.
Read-modify-write operations are of particular interest. Frequently
processors have special lower latency instructions that can operate
without the typical synchronization overhead but still provide some
sort of relaxed atomicity guarantee. The x86 for example can execute
RMV (Read Modify Write) instructions like inc/dec/cmpxchg without the
lock prefix and the associated latency penalty.
Access to the variable without the lock prefix is not synchronized but
synchronization is not necessary since we are dealing with per cpu
data specific to the currently executing processor. Only the current
processor should be accessing that variable and therefore there are no
concurrency issues with other processors in the system.
On x86 the fs: or the gs: segment registers contain the base of the
per cpu area. It is then possible to simply use the segment override
to relocate a per cpu relative address to the proper per cpu area for
the processor. So the relocation to the per cpu base is encoded in the
instruction via a segment register prefix.
For example:
int z;
z = this_cpu_read(x);
results in a single instruction
mov ax, gs:[x]
instead of a sequence of calculation of the address and then a fetch
from that address which occurs with the percpu operations. Before
this_cpu_ops such sequence also required preempt disable/enable to
prevent the kernel from moving the thread to a different processor
while the calculation is performed.
The main use of the this_cpu operations has been to optimize counter
results in the following single instruction (no lock prefix!)
inc gs:[x]
instead of the following operations required if there is no segment
int *y;
int cpu;
cpu = get_cpu();
y = per_cpu_ptr(&x, cpu);
Note that these operations can only be used on percpu data that is
reserved for a specific processor. Without disabling preemption in the
surrounding code this_cpu_inc() will only guarantee that one of the
percpu counters is correctly incremented. However, there is no
guarantee that the OS will not move the process directly before or
after the this_cpu instruction is executed. In general this means that
the value of the individual counters for each processor are
meaningless. The sum of all the per cpu counters is the only value
that is of interest.
Per cpu variables are used for performance reasons. Bouncing cache
lines can be avoided if multiple processors concurrently go through
the same code paths. Since each processor has its own per cpu
variables no concurrent cacheline updates take place. The price that
has to be paid for this optimization is the need to add up the per cpu
counters when the value of the counter is needed.
Special operations:
y = this_cpu_ptr(&x)
Takes the offset of a per cpu variable (&x !) and returns the address
of the per cpu variable that belongs to the currently executing
processor. this_cpu_ptr avoids multiple steps that the common
get_cpu/put_cpu sequence requires. No processor number is
available. Instead the offset of the local per cpu area is simply
added to the percpu offset.
Per cpu variables and offsets
Per cpu variables have *offsets* to the beginning of the percpu
area. They do not have addresses although they look like that in the
code. Offsets cannot be directly dereferenced. The offset must be
added to a base pointer of a percpu area of a processor in order to
form a valid address.
Therefore the use of x or &x outside of the context of per cpu
operations is invalid and will generally be treated like a NULL
pointer dereference.
In the context of per cpu operations
x is a per cpu variable. Most this_cpu operations take a cpu
&x is the *offset* a per cpu variable. this_cpu_ptr() takes
the offset of a per cpu variable which makes this look a bit
Operations on a field of a per cpu structure
Let's say we have a percpu structure
struct s {
int n,m;
DEFINE_PER_CPU(struct s, p);
Operations on these fields are straightforward
z = this_cpu_cmpxchg(p.m, 0, 1);
If we have an offset to struct s:
struct s __percpu *ps = &p;
z = this_cpu_dec(ps->m);
z = this_cpu_inc_return(ps->n);
The calculation of the pointer may require the use of this_cpu_ptr()
if we do not make use of this_cpu ops later to manipulate fields:
struct s *pp;
pp = this_cpu_ptr(&p);
z = pp->n++;
Variants of this_cpu ops
this_cpu ops are interrupt safe. Some architecture do not support
these per cpu local operations. In that case the operation must be
replaced by code that disables interrupts, then does the operations
that are guaranteed to be atomic and then reenable interrupts. Doing
so is expensive. If there are other reasons why the scheduler cannot
change the processor we are executing on then there is no reason to
disable interrupts. For that purpose the __this_cpu operations are
provided. For example.
Will increment x and will not fallback to code that disables
interrupts on platforms that cannot accomplish atomicity through
address relocation and a Read-Modify-Write operation in the same
&this_cpu_ptr(pp)->n vs this_cpu_ptr(&pp->n)
The first operation takes the offset and forms an address and then
adds the offset of the n field.
The second one first adds the two offsets and then does the
relocation. IMHO the second form looks cleaner and has an easier time
with (). The second form also is consistent with the way
this_cpu_read() and friends are used.
Christoph Lameter, April 3rd, 2013