Moving copy to DRAM doesn't help for small copies

By: Linus Torvalds (torvalds.delete@this.linux-foundation.org), October 3, 2021 10:09 am
Room: Moderated Discussions
Doug S (foo.delete@this.bar.bar) on October 3, 2021 10:09 am wrote:
>
> Zeroing has room for optimization, both since you will often zero more than one page at a time and
> because zeroes are rarely read before they are overwritten - so you want that activity to occur outside
> of the cache.

No you don't, actually.

People have tried various pre-zeroing schemes over and over and over again, and it's always been a loss in the end.

Why? Caches work, and they grow over time. And basically every single time you zero something, you are doing so because you're going to access much of the end result - even if it's just to overwrite it with final data - in the not too distant future.

Pre-zeroing and doing it at a DRAM or memory controller level is always going to be the wrong answer. It's going to mean that when you access it, you're now going to take that very expensive cache miss.

Yes, you can always find benchmarks where pre-zeroing is great, because you can pick the benchmark where you have just the right working set size, and you can time the memory operations to when they are most effective for that benchmark.

And then on real loads it won't work at all. In fact, even on the benchmark it will be a loss on other microarchitecures with bigger caches - so you're basically pessimising for the future.

So what you want to do is to zero your memory basically as late as possible, just before it gets used. That way the data will be close when it is accessed. Even if it's accessed just for writing the actual new data on top - a lot of zeroing is for initialization and security reasons, and to make for consistent behavior - it will be at least already dirty and exclusive in your caches, which is exactly what you want for a write.

So for big sparse arrays (or huge initial allocations), you may actually be much better off allocating them with something like a "mmap()" interface for anonymous memory (pick whatever non-unix equivalent), and just telling the system that you will need this much memory, but then depend on demand-paging to zero the pages for you before use.

Yes, you'll then take the page faults dynamically, but it might well end up much better than pre-zeroing big buffers that you won't use for a while.

As a rule of thumb, you never ever want to move memory accesses closer to DRAM, unless you have been explicitly told "I don't want this data any more" (or you have some really good detection of "this working set won't fit in any caches").

DRAM is just too far away, and caches are too effective - and you very seldom know how much cache you have on a software level.

Side note: that detection of "this working set won't fit in any caches" may well be about the CPU knowing the size of a memory copy or memory clear operation ahead of time, and taking those kinds of very explicit hints into account. Which is just another reason you should have memory copy support in hardware, and not do it in software.

Linus
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Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-Aanonymou52021/09/16 02:25 PM
  Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ADoug S2021/09/16 09:57 PM
    Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ABrett2021/09/16 10:32 PM
      Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-Aanon2021/09/16 10:55 PM
        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-Anone2021/09/16 11:51 PM
      Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-AJörn Engel2021/09/17 04:42 AM
        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-AMichael S2021/09/17 06:48 AM
          Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-AJörn Engel2021/09/18 01:01 PM
            Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-AMichael S2021/09/18 02:58 PM
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                microbenchmark source codeMichael S2021/09/19 03:58 PM
                  microbenchmark source code-.-2021/09/20 03:49 PM
                    microbenchmark source codeMichael S2021/09/21 09:17 AM
                      microbenchmark source code-.-2021/09/21 03:33 PM
                        microbenchmark source codeMichael S2021/09/21 05:05 PM
                microbenchmark resultsAnon2021/09/19 04:32 PM
                  microbenchmark resultsJörn Engel2021/09/19 07:46 PM
                    microbenchmark resultsdmcq2021/09/20 01:19 AM
                      microbenchmark resultsMichael S2021/09/20 04:12 AM
                      microbenchmark results-.-2021/09/20 03:44 PM
                        microbenchmark resultsMichael S2021/09/21 09:23 AM
                          microbenchmark results-.-2021/09/21 03:35 PM
                            microbenchmark resultsAndrey2021/09/21 04:25 PM
                              I agree (NT)Michael S2021/09/21 05:07 PM
                              microbenchmark results-.-2021/09/22 04:56 PM
                                microbenchmark resultsMichael S2021/09/23 05:11 AM
                                  microbenchmark resultsdmcq2021/09/23 06:53 AM
                                  microbenchmark resultsAndrey2021/09/23 09:20 AM
                                microbenchmark resultsAndrey2021/09/23 09:11 AM
                                  microbenchmark results-.-2021/09/23 07:01 PM
                                    microbenchmark resultsSimon Farnsworth2021/09/24 01:47 AM
                                      microbenchmark results-.-2021/09/24 05:00 PM
                                    microbenchmark resultsAndrey2021/09/24 07:29 AM
                                      microbenchmark resultsdmcq2021/09/24 12:05 PM
                                        microbenchmark resultsDoug S2021/09/24 01:12 PM
                                          microbenchmark results---2021/09/24 06:06 PM
                                            microbenchmark resultsDoug S2021/09/24 10:46 PM
                                              microbenchmark results---2021/09/25 08:56 AM
                                                microbenchmark resultsJukka Larja2021/09/26 01:01 AM
                                                microbenchmark resultsDoug S2021/09/26 08:41 AM
                                                  microbenchmark resultsdmcq2021/09/26 12:37 PM
                                                    microbenchmark resultsDoug S2021/09/27 09:32 AM
                                                      microbenchmark resultsdmcq2021/09/28 06:56 AM
                                              microbenchmark resultsDummond D. Slow2021/09/25 11:49 AM
                                                microbenchmark resultsBrett2021/09/25 02:31 PM
                                              microbenchmark resultsdmcq2021/09/25 11:51 AM
                                                microbenchmark resultsDoug S2021/09/26 08:45 AM
                                            microbenchmark resultsRichard S2021/09/25 12:51 AM
                                              microbenchmark resultsDummond D. Slow2021/09/25 11:52 AM
                                                microbenchmark results---2021/09/25 02:04 PM
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                                        SVE alignment with non power-of-2 widthsAndrey2021/09/25 03:46 AM
                                          SVE alignment with non power-of-2 widths-.-2021/09/25 04:35 PM
                                          SVE alignment with non power-of-2 widthsKevin G2021/09/27 08:46 AM
                                            SVE alignment with non power-of-2 widths-.-2021/09/27 08:06 PM
                                              SVE alignment with non power-of-2 widthsJukka Larja2021/09/28 05:37 AM
                                                SVE alignment with non power-of-2 widthsAndrey2021/09/28 11:12 AM
                                                  SVE alignment with non power-of-2 widthsdmcq2021/09/28 01:29 PM
                                                SVE alignment with non power-of-2 widths-.-2021/09/28 05:37 PM
                                                  SVE alignment with non power-of-2 widthsJukka Larja2021/09/29 05:50 AM
                    microbenchmark results---2021/09/20 06:11 AM
                    microbenchmark resultsJörn Engel2021/09/23 04:10 AM
                      microbenchmark resultsMichael S2021/09/23 04:55 AM
                        microbenchmark resultsJörn Engel2021/09/23 08:24 AM
                          microbenchmark resultsRoyi2021/09/26 03:25 PM
                      microbenchmark resultsdmcq2021/09/23 09:42 AM
                        microbenchmark results---2021/09/23 10:53 AM
                      microbenchmark resultsanon22021/09/23 01:40 PM
                microbenchmark results: Zen 3Adrian2021/09/22 12:57 AM
                  microbenchmark results: Zen 3Adrian2021/09/22 01:08 AM
                    microbenchmark results: Zen 3Michael S2021/09/22 04:48 AM
                      microbenchmark results: Zen 3Adrian2021/09/22 05:05 AM
        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-AKonrad Schwarz2021/09/28 04:45 AM
    Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ALinus Torvalds2021/09/17 07:59 AM
      Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ADoug S2021/09/17 10:35 AM
        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-Anksingh2021/09/17 11:23 AM
          Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ADoug S2021/09/17 01:35 PM
            Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-AKonrad Schwarz2021/10/15 05:23 AM
              Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-Arwessel2021/10/15 05:49 AM
        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-AAdrian2021/09/17 10:07 PM
          Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ADoug S2021/09/18 06:34 AM
            Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-AAdrian2021/09/18 06:38 AM
      Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-Ablaine2021/09/18 09:37 AM
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        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-Admcq2021/09/19 12:36 PM
        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ADoug S2021/09/19 05:07 PM
          Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesdmcq2021/09/28 08:54 AM
            Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesDoug S2021/09/28 12:57 PM
              Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesdmcq2021/09/28 01:21 PM
                Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesNoSpammer2021/09/29 02:53 AM
                  Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/09/29 05:55 AM
                    Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesdmcq2021/09/29 06:53 AM
                      Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/09/29 10:35 AM
                        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesdmcq2021/09/29 12:44 PM
                          Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/09/29 12:58 PM
                            Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesdmcq2021/09/29 02:52 PM
                              Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/09/29 05:36 PM
                              Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesAndrey2021/09/29 06:58 PM
                    Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesDoug S2021/09/29 09:10 AM
                      Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/09/29 10:30 AM
                        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesDoug S2021/09/29 09:02 PM
                          Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/09/29 10:22 PM
                            Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesMark Roulo2021/09/30 06:37 AM
                              Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/09/30 07:02 AM
                                Did they publish a full description? (NT)Michael S2021/09/30 07:12 AM
                                  Did they publish a full description?rwessel2021/09/30 08:18 AM
                                    Did they publish a full description?Michael S2021/09/30 09:24 AM
                                      Did they publish a full description?rwessel2021/09/30 09:42 AM
                                    Did they publish a full description?Adrian2021/09/30 11:22 PM
                                  Do we even okiw it's three instructions per move?Carson2021/09/30 09:28 PM
                                    Do we even okiw it's three instructions per move?Adrian2021/09/30 11:27 PM
                                    Do we even okiw it's three instructions per move?rwessel2021/10/01 03:19 AM
                            Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesDoug S2021/09/30 08:48 AM
                              Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/09/30 09:39 AM
                                Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesDoug S2021/09/30 01:56 PM
                                  Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/09/30 04:20 PM
                                    Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesdmcq2021/10/01 03:38 AM
                                      Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesMichael S2021/10/01 04:04 AM
                                        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesLinus Torvalds2021/10/01 10:01 AM
                                          memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMArpg2021/10/02 01:51 AM
                                            memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAAdrian2021/10/02 02:45 AM
                                              memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMADoug S2021/10/02 08:47 AM
                                                memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAAdrian2021/10/02 09:15 AM
                                                memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMArwessel2021/10/02 10:37 AM
                                                  memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMADoug S2021/10/02 05:49 PM
                                            memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMALinus Torvalds2021/10/02 09:43 AM
                                              memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAdmcq2021/10/02 10:32 AM
                                              memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMABrett2021/10/02 10:45 AM
                                              memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMA---2021/10/02 02:03 PM
                                                memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMA---2021/10/02 02:12 PM
                                                  Moving copy to DRAM doesn't help for small copiesMark Roulo2021/10/02 02:59 PM
                                                    Moving copy to DRAM doesn't help for small copies---2021/10/02 06:32 PM
                                                      Moving copy to DRAM doesn't help for small copiesMichael S2021/10/03 12:40 AM
                                                        Moving copy to DRAM doesn't help for small copiesDoug S2021/10/03 09:09 AM
                                                          Moving copy to DRAM doesn't help for small copiesrwessel2021/10/03 09:51 AM
                                                          Moving copy to DRAM doesn't help for small copiesLinus Torvalds2021/10/03 10:09 AM
                                                            How about environments such as Java?Mark Roulo2021/10/03 11:41 AM
                                                              How about environments such as Java?rwessel2021/10/03 11:49 AM
                                                                How about environments such as Java?Mark Roulo2021/10/03 12:22 PM
                                                              How about environments such as Java?anon22021/10/03 06:58 PM
                                                                How about environments such as Java?Etienne Lorrain2021/10/04 04:08 AM
                                                                  Apart from "It depends" there is no short answer. (NT)Michael S2021/10/04 04:30 AM
                                                                  How about environments such as Java?Andrey2021/10/04 05:04 AM
                                                                  How about environments such as Java?anon22021/10/04 05:32 AM
                                                                How about environments such as Java?Mark Roulo2021/10/04 06:31 AM
                                                                How about environments such as Java?---2021/10/04 08:41 AM
                                                                  How about environments such as Java?Doug S2021/10/04 09:23 AM
                                                                    How about environments such as Java?Andrey2021/10/04 11:14 AM
                                                                      How about environments such as Java?Doug S2021/10/04 12:20 PM
                                                                  How about environments such as Java?anon22021/10/04 01:23 PM
                                                                  How about environments such as Java?rwessel2021/10/04 03:54 PM
                                                            Moving copy to DRAM doesn't help for small copiesJörn Engel2021/10/04 04:52 AM
                                                            Early software zeroing !=== early hardware zeroingPaul A. Clayton2021/10/05 10:19 AM
                                                              Early software zeroing !=== early hardware zeroingDoug S2021/10/05 11:21 AM
                                                memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMABrendan2021/10/02 03:53 PM
                                                  memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMALinus Torvalds2021/10/03 09:48 AM
                                                    memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAdmcq2021/10/03 12:54 PM
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                                                memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMADavid Hess2021/10/05 04:19 PM
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                                                    memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAEtienne Lorrain2021/10/06 01:24 AM
                                                    memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMArwessel2021/10/06 02:38 AM
                                                      memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAAdrian2021/10/06 03:04 AM
                                                        memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMArwessel2021/10/06 04:59 AM
                                                    memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMA---2021/10/06 08:07 AM
                                                      memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAAndrey2021/10/06 01:59 PM
                                                    memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAgallier22021/10/06 10:06 PM
                                                      memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAAdrian2021/10/06 10:59 PM
                                              memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAMichael S2021/10/03 12:51 AM
                                                memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMArwessel2021/10/03 04:06 AM
                                                  memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAMichael S2021/10/03 04:24 AM
                                                    memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMAMatt Sayler2021/10/03 07:02 AM
                                                    memcpy - instruction cracking vs DMADoug S2021/10/03 09:14 AM
                                      Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/10/01 04:10 AM
                                        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesEtienne Lorrain2021/10/01 06:55 AM
                                          Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/10/01 07:14 AM
                                            Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesDoug S2021/10/01 10:17 AM
                                              Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-A - movesrwessel2021/10/02 03:57 AM
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            Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-Arwessel2021/10/15 03:49 AM
              Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ADoug S2021/10/15 09:44 AM
                Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-Ame2021/10/15 05:34 PM
                  Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ADoug S2021/10/16 08:47 AM
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                      Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ADoug S2021/10/17 09:17 AM
                        Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-Ame2021/10/17 11:31 AM
                          Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ADoug S2021/10/17 12:33 PM
                            Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-AzArchJon2021/10/18 09:35 AM
                              Armv8.8-A and Armv9.3-ADoug S2021/10/18 01:35 PM
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