Pushing Software Events to the Hardware Limit

Kyle Hale, Peter A Dinda

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


Runtimes and applications that rely heavily on event notifications suffer when such notifications must traverse several layers of processing in software. Many of these layers necessarily exist in order to support a general-purpose, portable kernel architecture, but they introduce unacceptable overheads for demanding, high-performance parallel runtimes. Other overheads can arise out of a mismatched event programing or system call interface. Whatever the case may be, the average latency and variance in latency of commonly used software mechanisms for event notifications is abysmal compared to the hardware limit, which is several orders of magnitude lower.

One barrier to low-latency events is the user/kernel-mode distinction. Motivated by experience working with several parallel runtimes—and the limitations of their operation in user-space—we explore the limits of low-latency event notifications in an execution environment, the hybrid runtime (HRT), that liminates the user/kernel distinction. We propose several mechanisms that employ kernel mode-only features to accelerate event notifications by up to 4,000 times and provide a detailed evaluation of our implementation using extensive microbenchmarks. Our evaluation is done both on a modern x64 server and the Intel Xeon Phi. Finally, we argue that a small addition to existing interrupt controllers (APICs) could push the limit of asynchronous events closer to the latency of the hardware cache coherence network.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherNorthwestern University
Number of pages14
StatePublished - Mar 2016


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