The HyperNews Linux KHG Discussion Pages

1. The Players

The TLB.
This is more of a virtual entity than a strict model as far as the Linux flush architecture is concerned. The only characteristics it has is:
  1. It keeps track of process/kernel mappings in some way, whether in software or hardware.
  2. Architecture specific code may need to be notified when the kernel has changed a process/kernel mapping.
The cache.
This entity is essentially "memory state" as the flush architecture views it. In general it has the following properties:
  1. It will always hold copies of data which will be viewed as uptodate by the local processor.
  2. Its proper functioning may be related to the TLB and process/kernel page mappings in some way, that is to say they may depend upon each other.
  3. It may, in a virtually cached configuration, cause aliasing problems if one physical page is mapped at the same time to two virtual pages, and due to to the bits of an address used to index the cache line, the same piece of data can end up residing in the cache twice, allowing inconsistancies to result.
  4. Devices and DMA may or may not be able to see the most up to date copy of a piece of data which resides in the cache of the local processor.
  5. Currently, it is assumed that coherence in a multiprocessor environment is maintained by the cache/memory subsystem. That is to say, when one processor requests a datum on the memory bus and another processor has a more uptodate copy, by whatever means the requestor will get the uptodate copy owned by the other processor.
(NOTE: SMP architectures without hardware cache coherence mechanisms are indeed possible, the current flush architecture does not handle this currently. If at at some point a Linux port to some system where this is an issue occurrs, I will add the necessary hooks. But it will not be pretty.)

2. What the flush architecture cares about

  1. At all times the memory management hardware's view of a set of process/kernel mappings will be consistant with that of the kernel page tables.
  2. If the memory management kernel code makes a modification to a user process page, by modifying the data via the kernel-space alias of the underlying physical page, the user thread of control will see the right data before it is allowed to continue execution, regardless of the cache architecture and/or semantics.
  3. In general, when address space state is changed (on the generic kernel memory management code's behalf only) the appropriate flush architecture hook will be called describing that state change in full.

3. What the flush architecture does not care about

  1. DMA/Driver coherency. This includes DMA mappings (in the sense of MMU mappings) and cache/DMA datum consistency. These sorts of issues have no buisness in the flush architecture, see below how they should be handled.
  2. Split Instruction/Data cache consistancy with respect to modifications made to the process instruction space performed by the signal dispatch code. Again see below on how this should be handled in another way.

4. The interfaces for the flush architecture and how to implement them

In general all of the routines described below will be called with the following sequence:
The logic here is:
  1. It may be illegal in a given architecture for a piece of cache data to exist when no mapping for that data exists, therefore the flush must occur before the change is made.
  2. It is possible for a given MMU/TLB architecture to perform a hardware table walk of the kernel page tables. Therefore the TLB flush is done after the page tables have been changed so that afterwards the hardware can only load in the new copy of the page table information to the TLB.

void flush_cache_all(void);
void flush_tlb_all(void);
These routines are to notify the architecture specific code that a change has been made to the kernel address space mappings, which means that the mappings of every process has effectively changed.

An implementation shall:

  1. Eliminate all cache entries which are valid at this point in time when flush_cache_all is invoked. This applies to virtual cache architectures. If the cache is write-back in nature, this routine shall commit the cache data to memory before invalidating each entry. For physical caches, no action need be performed since physical mappings have no bearing on address space translations.
  2. For flush_tlb_all, all TLB mappings for the kernel address space should be made consistant with the OS page tables by whatever means necessary. Note that with an architecture that possesses the notion of "MMU/TLB contexts" it may be necessary to perform this synchronization in every "active" MMU/TLB context.

void flush_cache_mm(struct mm_struct *mm);
void flush_tlb_mm(struct mm_struct *mm);
These routines notify the system that the entire address space described by the mm_struct passed is changing. Please take note of two things in particular:
  1. The mm_struct is the unit of mmu/tlb real estate as far as the flush architecture is concerned. In particular, an mm_struct may map to one or many tasks or none!
  2. This "address space" change is considered to be occurring in user space only. It is therefore safe for code to avoid flushing kernel tlb/cache entries if that is possible for efficiency.
An implementation shall:
  1. For flush_cache_mm, whatever entries could exist in a virtual cache for the address space described by mm_struct are to be invalidated.
  2. For flush_tlb_mm, the tlb/mmu hardware is to be placed in a state where it will see the (now current) kernel page table entries for the address space described by the mm_struct.

flush_cache_range(struct mm_struct *mm, unsigned long start,
                  unsigned long end);
flush_tlb_range(struct mm_struct *mm, unsigned long start,
                unsigned long end);
A change to a particular range of user addresses in the address space described by the mm_struct passed is occurring. The two notes above for flush_*_mm() concerning the mm_struct passed apply here as well.

An implementation shall:

  1. For flush_cache_range, on a virtually cached system, all cache entries which are valid for the range start to end in the address space described by the mm_struct are to be invalidated.
  2. For flush_tlb_range, whatever actions necessary to cause the MMU/TLB hardware to not contain stale translations are to be performed. This means that whatever translations are in the kernel page tables in the range start to end in the address space described by the mm_struct are to be what the memory mangement hardware will see from this point forward, by whatever means.

void flush_cache_page(struct vm_area_struct *vma, unsigned long address);
void flush_tlb_page(struct vm_area_struct *vma, unsigned long address);
A change to a single page at address within user space to the address space described by the vm_area_struct passed is occurring. An implementation, if need be, can get at the assosciated mm_struct for this address space via vma->vm_mm. The VMA is passed for convenience so that an implementation can inspect vma->vm_flags. This way in an implementation where the instruction and data spaces are not unified, one can check to see if VM_EXEC is set in vma->vm_flags to possibly avoid flushing the instruction space, for example.

The two notes above for flush_*_mm() concerning the mm_struct (passed indirectly via vma->vm_mm) apply here as well.

An implementation shall:

  1. For flush_cache_range, on a virtually cached system, all cache entries which are valid for the page at address in the address space described by the VMA are to be invalidated.
  2. For flush_tlb_range, whatever actions necessary to cause the MMU/TLB hardware to not contain stale translations are to be performed. This means that whatever translations are in the kernel page tables for the page at address in the address space described by the VMA passed are to be what the memory mangement hardware will see from this point forward, by whatever means.

void flush_page_to_ram(unsigned long page);
This is the ugly duckling. But its semantics are necessary on so many architectures that I needed to add it to the flush architecture for Linux.

Briefly, when (as one example) the kernel services a COW fault, it uses the aliased mappings of all physical memory in kernel space to perform the copy of the page in question to a new page. This presents a problem for virtually indexed caches which are write-back in nature. In this case, the kernel touches two physical pages in kernel space. The code sequence being described here essentially looks like:

        [ ... ]
                flush_cache_page(vma, address);
                flush_tlb_page(vma, address);
        [ ... ]
(Some of the actual code has been simplified for example purposes.)

Consider a virtually indexed cache which is write-back. At the point in time at which the copy of the page occurs to the kernel space aliases, it is possible for the user space view of the original page to be in the caches (at the user's address, ie. where the fault is occurring). The page copy can bring this data (for the old page) into the caches. It will also place the data (at the new kernel aliased mapping of the page) being copied to into the cache, and for write back caches this data will be dirty or modified in the cache.

In such a case main memory will not see the most recent copy of the data. The caches are stupid, so for the new page we are giving to the user, without forcing the cached data at the kernel alias to main memory the process will see the old contents of the page (ie. whatever garbage was there before the copy done by COW processing above).

A concrete example of what was just described:

Consider a process which shares a page, read-only with another task (or many) at virtual address 0x2000 in user space. And for example purposes let us say that this virtual address maps to physical page 0x14000.

                Virtual Pages
        task 1  --------------
                | 0x00000000 |
                | 0x00001000 |                  Physical Pages
                --------------                  --------------
                | 0x00002000 | --\              | 0x00000000 |
                --------------    \             --------------
                                   \            | ...        |
        task 2  --------------      \           --------------
                | 0x00000000 |      |---->   | 0x00014000 |
                --------------      /           --------------
                | 0x00001000 |     /            | ...        |
                --------------    /             --------------
                | 0x00002000 | --/
If task 2 tries to write to the read-only page at address 0x2000 we will get a fault and eventually end up at the code fragment shown above in do_wp_page().

The kernel will get a new page for task2, let us say this is physical page 0x26000, and let us also say that the kernel alias mappings for physical pages 0x14000 and 0x26000 can reside in the two unique cache lines at the same time based upon the line indexing scheme of this cache.

The page contents get copied from the kernel mappings for physical page 0x14000 to the ones for physical page 0x26000.

At this point in time, on a write-back virtually indexed cache architecture we have a potential inconsistancy. The new data copied into physical page 0x26000 is not necessary in main memory at this point, in fact it could be all in the cache only at the kernel alias of the physical address. Also, the (non-modified, ie. clean) data for the original (old) page is in the cache at the kernel alias for physical page 0x14000, this can produce an inconsistancy later on, so to be safe it is best to be eliminate the cached copies of this data as well.

Let us say we did not write back the data for the page at 0x26000 and we let it just stay there. We would return to task 2 (who has this new page now mapped in at virtual address 0x2000), he would complete his write, then he would read some other piece of data in this new page (i.e. expecting the contents that existed there beforehand). At this point in time if the data is left in the cache at the kernel alias for the new physical page, the user will get whatever was in main memory before the copy for his read. This can lead to disasterous results.

Therefore an architecture shall:

On virtually indexed cache architectures, do whatever is necessary to make main memory consistant with the cached copy of the kernel space page passed.

NOTE: It is actually necessary for this routine to invalidate lines in a virtual cache which is not write-back in nature. To see why this is really necessary, replay the above example with task 1 and 2, but this time fork() yet another task 3 before the COW faults occur, consider the contents of the caches in both kernel and user space if the following sequence occurrs in exact succession:

  1. task 1 reads some the page at 0x2000
  2. task 2 COW faults the page at 0x2000
  3. task 2 performs his writes to the new page at 0x2000
  4. task 3 COW faults the page at 0x2000
Even on a non-writeback virtually indexed cache, task 3 can see inconsistant data after the COW fault if flush_page_to_ram does not invalidate the kernel aliased physical page from the cache.

void update_mmu_cache(struct vm_area_struct *vma,
                      unsigned long address, pte_t pte);
Although not strictly part of the flush architecture, on certain architectures some critical operations and checks need to be performed here for things to work out properly and for the system to remain consistant.

In particular, for virtually indexed caches this routine must check to see that the new mapping being added by the current page fault does not add an "bad alias" to user space.

A "bad alias" is defined as two or more mappings (at least one of which is writable) to two or more virtual pages which all translate to the same exact physical page, and due to the indexing algorithm of the cache can also reside in unique and mutually exclusive cache lines.

If such a "bad alias" is detected an implementation needs to resolve this inconsistancy some how, one solution is to walk through all of the mappings and change the page tables to make these pages as "non-cacheable" if the hardware allows such a thing.

The checks for this are very simple, all an implementation needs to do essentially is:

if((vma->vm_flags & (VM_WRITE|VM_SHARED)) == (VM_WRITE|VM_SHARED))
So for the common case (shared writable mappings are extremely rare) only one comparison is needed for systems with virtually indexed caches.

5. Implications for SMP

Depending upon the architecture certain amends may be needed to allow the flush architecture to work on an SMP system.

The main concern is whether one of the above flush operations cause the entire system to be globally see the flush, or the flush is only guarenteed to be seen by the local processor.

In the latter case a cross calling mechanism is needed. The current two SMP systems supported under Linux (Intel and Sparc) use inter-processor interrupts to "broadcast" the flush operation and cause it to run locally on all processors if necessary.

As an example, on sun4m Sparc systems all processers in the system must execute the flush request to guarentee consistancy across the entire system. However, on sun4d Sparc machines, TLB flushes performed on the local processor are broadcast over the system bus by the hardware and therefore a cross call is not necessary.

6. Implications for context based MMU/CACHE architectures

The entire idea behind the concept of MMU and cache context facilities is to allow many address spaces to share the cache/mmu resources on the cpu.

To take full advantage of such a facility, and still maintain coherency as described above, requires some extra consideration from the implementor.

The issues involved will vary greatly from one implementation to another, at least this has been the experience of the author. But in particular some of the issues are likely to be:

  1. The relationship of kernel space mappings to user space ones, as far as contexts are concerned. On some systems kernel mappings have a "global" attribute, in that the hardware does not concern itself with context information when a translation is made which has this attribute. Therefore one flush (in any context) of a kernel cache/mmu mapping could be sufficient.
    However it is possible in other implementations for the kernel to share the context key assosciated with a particular address space. It may be necessary in such a case to walk into all contexts which are currently valid and perform the complete flush in each one for a kernel address space flush.
  2. The cost of per-context flushes can become a key issue, especially with respect to the TLB. For example, if a tlb flush is needed on a large range of addresses (or an entire address space) it may be more prudent to allocate and assign a new mmu context to this process for the sake of efficiency.

7. How to handle what the flush architecture does not do, with examples

The flush architecture just described make no amends for device/DMA coherency with cached data. It also has no provisions for any mapping strategies necessary for DMA and devices should that be necessary on a certain machine Linux is ported to. Such issues are none of the flush architectures buisness.

Such issues are most cleanly dealt with at the device driver level. The author is convinced of this after his experiance with a common set of Sparc device drivers which needed to all function correctly on more than a handfull of cache/mmu and bus architecrures in the same kernel.

In fact this implementation is more efficient because the driver knows exactly when DMA needs to see consistant data or when DMA is going to create an inconsistancy which must be resolved. Any attempt to reach this level of efficiency via hooks added to the generic kernel memory management code would be complex and if anything very unclean.

As an example, consider on the Sparc how DMA buffers are handled. When a device driver must perform DMA to/from either a single buffer or a scatter list of many buffers it uses a set of abstract routines:

 char *(*mmu_get_scsi_one)(char *, unsigned long, struct linux_sbus *sbus);
 void  (*mmu_get_scsi_sgl)(struct mmu_sglist *, int, struct linux_sbus *sbus);
 void  (*mmu_release_scsi_one)(char *, unsigned long, struct linux_sbus *sbus);
 void  (*mmu_release_scsi_sgl)(struct mmu_sglist *, int, struct linux_sbus *sbus);
 void  (*mmu_map_dma_area)(unsigned long addr, int len);
Essentially the mmu_get_* routines are passed a pointer or a set pointers and size specifications to areas in kernel space for which DMA will occur, they return a DMA capable address (i.e. one which can be loaded into the DMA controller for the transfer). When the driver is done with the DMA and the transfer has completed the mmu_release_* routines must be called with the DMA'able address(es) so that the resources can be freed (if necessary) and cache flushes can be performed (if necessary).

The final routine is there for drivers which need to have a block of DMA memory for a long period of time, for example a networking driver would use this for a pool transmit and receive buffers.

The final argument is a Sparc specific entity which allows the machine level code to perform the mapping if DMA mappings are setup on a per-BUS basis.

8. Open issues

There seems to be some very stupid cache architectures out there which want to cause trouble when an alias is placed into the cache (even a safe one where none of the aliased cache entries are writable!). Of note is the MIPS R4000 which will give an exception when such a situation occurs, these can occur when COW processing is happing in the current implementation. On most chips which do something stupid like this, the exception handler can flush the entries in the cache being complained about and all is well. The author is mostly concerned about the cost of these exceptions during COW processing and the effects this will have for system performance. Perhaps a new flush is neccessary, which would be performed before the page copy in COW fault processing, which essentially is to flush a user space page if not doing so would cause the trouble just described.

There has been heated talk lately about adding page flipping facilities for very intelligent networking hardware. It may be necessary to extend the flush architecture to provide the interfaces and facilities necessary for these changes to the networking code.

And by all means, the flush architecture is always subject to improvements and changes to handle new issues or new hardware which presents a problem that was to this point unknown.

David S. Miller