Branch/jump target prediction

By: David Kanter (, August 11, 2016 11:09 pm
Room: Moderated Discussions
Linus Torvalds ( on August 10, 2016 5:14 pm wrote:
> Megol ( on August 10, 2016 3:25 pm wrote:
> >
> > Can't argue against that, however the problems were mostly elsewhere.
> I agree that a lot of P4 weaknesses were exacerbated by other issues, and that
> the legacy decoders were too weak. But the legacy decoders were too weak partly
> because people had thought that trace caches were a good idea. They aren't.
> > > And it has almost nothing in common with the crap that was the P4 trace cache.
> >
> > So why mention it?
> .. because the predecode cache is the correct way to do this, and makes the trace cache pointless.
> So the BSD is very much relevant to the discussion - as a "look, here's something that actually
> works better, and that Intel does that largely replaces the broken trace cache".
> > What kind of workloads do you run where instruction cache coherency is problematic?
> Umm. Like almost all of them?
> Do you realize how bad the P4 was at coherency? To the point that compiler-generated
> code that didn't actually do self-modifying things at all had huge problems,
> just because the coherence "solution" that Intel picked sucked.
> Yeah, it's less of an issue on architectures that don't actually need coherency in the first place,
> but that wasn't what was discussed. What was claimed was that the P4 trace cache was "awesome".
> It really really wasn't.
> > Really...
> Really. Trust me. Compilers had to be changed because of it.
> Yes, you can argue that that was due to another bad implementation issue, but the oddity comes almost directly
> from the fact that coherence gets more complicated, so then you do odd/bad things to simplify the problems.
> So the coherency issues were pretty much caused by the trace cache. The
> fact is, trace caches need more care and complexity in this area.
> > Most branches _are_ very predictable, for those that aren't -> don't create a trace.
> >Fixed.
> Bullshit.
> You don't know which branches are predictable to begin with. Also, even the "very
> predictable" ones tend to be about 99%, which isn't actually that predictable
> after all - it causes problems when you end up having code overlap anyway.
> And btw, those benchmarks that show how predictable branches are? Yeah, they
> aren't really all that indicative of real code that people actually run.
> It all boils down to the fact that you basically need to have the non-trace-cache case execute pretty
> much as quickly as the trace case, and the whole trace cache ends up being a lot of complexity for
> very little advantage. You can't actually try to skimp on the "legacy" decoders after all.
> So you're much better off doing just a L0 I$ predecoded cache on an
> instruction boundary level, and forget entirely about the traces.
> > Perhaps you should look up what a trace cache is before stating things like that?
> Yeah, let's just imagine that I worked for a company that did very
> similar things and actually generated traces on real loads.
> In other words, I haven't just masturbated over academic
> papers like you apparently do. I do know how they work.
> They suck.

Trace caches have a number of other problems, such as replication. Many basic blocks can be accessed through multiple paths. A trace cache might store a given BB many times - wasting capacity.

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TopicPosted ByDate
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                    The (wrong) state of trace caches on modern CPUsMichael S2016/08/25 02:28 AM
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