A common problem

Article: Fall Processor Forum 2006: IBM's POWER6
By: Linus Torvalds (torvalds.delete@this.osdl.org), November 16, 2006 10:03 am
Room: Moderated Discussions
Wilco (Wilco.Dijkstra@ntlworld.com) on 11/15/06 wrote:
>Rob Thorpe (rthorpe@realworldtech.com) on 11/15/06 wrote:
>
>>Having one or two omissions from your original instruction
>>set is not a huge problem.
>
>While fixing is certainly feasible (and most architectures
>do it), in my experience it is very expensive.

It really depends on the detail of the instructions.

If it's something very rare (your system call example is
a good one - it is not a very common instruction, and it
tends to always be hidden behind some higher-level
abstraction anyway), fixing up the lack of an instruction
is not that big of a deal. You can do it with things like
versioned loadable libraries etc.

One great example of this is alpha, because it had several
missing instructions, and some were painful, and others
were not.

For the example of the "not painful" case, the later
addition of square root support in hardware was not all
that painful. It is a "rare" instruction in the sense that
a lot of programs will never ever care whether you do
square root in software or not, and the programs that
really care would have to be recompiled, but it was
probably possible to hide even that mostly within libm.

(I say "mostly", because if you wanted highest performance,
you'd want to inline it - and thus recompile - since it was
now just a single instruction and doing so would give you
much better floating point register usage).

But some of the other alpha missing instructions were really
painful. The byte and word access extensions ("BWX") that
were originally missing ("because we can do it faster in
software - crap") got added late enough that if you wanted
your software to work on lots of alphas, you simply could
not compile with them. And byte and halfword instructions
are not something that are rare or can be hidden
behind higher-level interfaces like function calls. They're
all over.

So all compilers for alpha would default to not use
byte instructions, and instead do the word access and byte
value insert/extract things. Which were big and relatively
slow, and actually had other bad side effects too (ie now
a byte access wasn't atomic, so in a threaded environment,
you had to use a full word for flags, for example - this
caused portability problems, and it caused structures have
to be padded out on alpha where other architectures could
just use a byte flag etc).

>Similar to fixing software bugs, the overall cost of fixing
>those omissions is many times larger than adding them early
>on.

...and in practice, in a lot of cases, you'll never be able
to actually fix it at all. People will continue to run the
old code, just because it has to be the default compiler
setting, and because there might be machines around that
can't run the new sequences.

In the case of alpha, the lack of byte instructions was
probably one of the things that really did help kill it. It
made it very hard to do system code, for example. You could
basically not re-use any drivers from x86 without
major changes, because you had to abstract all the IO
accesses (where doing a byte access with word accesses is
often not even possible, so the IO subsystem had
separate magic ranges for 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit
accesses).

As a result, not a lot of drivers were ever ported to
NT/axp, as far as I know, and the architecture really didn't
work all that well in one of it's major markets. Now, it's
debatable whether it could really have made a dent in that
market anyway, but I'm pretty sure that one big part
was those "missing instructions" that the hardware people
thought software could easily do better.

Linus
< Previous Post in ThreadNext Post in Thread >
TopicPosted ByDate
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                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/10/23 04:06 PM
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                                                          Hang on I forgot the other approachesRob Thorpe2006/10/26 10:27 AM
                                                            Hang on I forgot the other approachesS. Rao2006/10/26 02:16 PM
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                                                            Language safety in a multithread environmentS. Rao2006/10/26 02:51 PM
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                                                                Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/10/27 08:40 AM
                                                                  Language safety in a multithread environmentRob Thorpe2006/10/27 09:06 AM
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                                                                        Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?Linus Torvalds2006/10/28 04:29 PM
                                                                          Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?Ricardo B2006/10/30 06:36 AM
                                                                            Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?Linus Torvalds2006/10/30 09:57 AM
                                                                              Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?Tzvetan Mikov2006/10/30 11:55 AM
                                                                                Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?Michael S2006/10/30 12:14 PM
                                                                                  Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?Tzvetan Mikov2006/10/30 12:20 PM
                                                                                    Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?Michael S2006/10/30 01:11 PM
                                                                                      A reference would be nice :-) (NT)Tzvetan Mikov2006/10/30 01:32 PM
                                                                                        A reference Michael S2006/10/30 03:37 PM
                                                                                          A reference Tzvetan Mikov2006/11/03 08:57 PM
                                                                                            check your e-mbox (NT)Michael S2006/11/04 12:47 PM
                                                                                      Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?David Kanter2006/10/30 01:40 PM
                                                                                        Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?Michael S2006/10/30 02:28 PM
                                                                                          Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?David Kanter2006/10/30 02:43 PM
                                                                                            Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?Michael S2006/10/30 04:36 PM
                                                                                              Why OoO stores are evil but OoO loads are o.k.?David Kanter2006/10/30 10:14 PM
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                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentRob Thorpe2006/10/31 11:25 AM
                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/10/31 12:59 PM
                                                                          Language safety in a multithread environmentRob Thorpe2006/10/31 01:38 PM
                                                                            Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/10/31 02:02 PM
                                                                              Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/10/31 03:54 PM
                                                                                Will reply tommorrow, very busy today (NT)Rob Thorpe2006/11/01 11:14 AM
                                                                              Language safety in a multithread environmentRob Thorpe2006/11/02 01:30 PM
                                                                                Language safety in a multithread environmentrwessel2006/11/02 02:06 PM
                                                                                  Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/11/03 02:39 AM
                                                                                    Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/11/03 09:40 AM
                                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/11/03 10:12 AM
                                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/11/03 01:20 PM
                                                                                          Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/11/06 03:42 AM
                                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentEric Bron2006/11/04 04:47 AM
                                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/11/06 04:13 AM
                                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/04 12:29 PM
                                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentRicardo B2006/11/04 02:54 PM
                                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/11/06 03:54 AM
                                                                                          Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/06 12:26 PM
                                                                                            Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/11/07 01:54 AM
                                                                                              Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/07 04:34 PM
                                                                                                Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/11/08 02:29 AM
                                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentrwessel2006/11/04 10:13 PM
                                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentrwessel2006/11/04 10:23 PM
                                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentMichael S2006/11/05 04:05 AM
                                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/11/05 10:14 AM
                                                                                          unaligned SSE testsEric Bron2006/11/05 02:26 PM
                                                                                            unaligned SSE testsMichael S2006/11/05 03:47 PM
                                                                                              unaligned SSE testsEric Bron2006/11/05 04:23 PM
                                                                                                unaligned SSE testsMichael S2006/11/05 05:03 PM
                                                                                                  unaligned SSE testsEric Bron2006/11/05 05:28 PM
                                                                                                    Now results make sense. How about Psc? (NT)Michael S2006/11/05 05:37 PM
                                                                                                      tomorrow, it's 01:43 PM where I'm (NT)Eric Bron2006/11/05 05:44 PM
                                                                                                        I mean 01:43 AM (NT)Eric Bron2006/11/05 05:45 PM
                                                                                                      PSC scoresEric Bron2006/11/06 02:25 AM
                                                                                                        PSC scoresMichael S2006/11/06 04:28 AM
                                                                                                          PSC scoresIan Ameline2006/11/06 09:00 AM
                                                                                                            meaningful performance gainMichael S2006/11/06 09:33 AM
                                                                                                              meaningful performance gainLinus Torvalds2006/11/06 11:15 AM
                                                                                                                Dynamically resolved alignmentDavid Kanter2006/11/06 12:49 PM
                                                                                                                  Dynamically resolved alignmentRicardo B2006/11/06 01:46 PM
                                                                                                                  Dynamically resolved alignmentLinus Torvalds2006/11/06 01:48 PM
                                                                                                                meaningful performance gainEric Bron2006/11/07 02:23 AM
                                                                                                        RE: "I suppose we will have to continue to align" ...Not really :)redpriest2006/11/06 05:11 PM
                                                                                                          Your point?Michael S2006/11/06 05:47 PM
                                                                                                            Actually Michael, it's quite a bit more than that.redpriest2006/11/06 06:30 PM
                                                                                                              Actually Michael, it's quite a bit more than that.anonymous2006/11/06 08:36 PM
                                                                                                                Actually Michael, it's quite a bit more than that.Linus Torvalds2006/11/06 09:01 PM
                                                                                                                  Actually Michael, it's quite a bit more than that.Rob Thorpe2006/11/07 03:31 AM
                                                                                                                  Actually Michael, it's quite a bit more than that.anonymous2006/11/07 07:27 AM
                                                                                                              link vs linqMichael S2006/11/07 02:04 AM
                                                                                                                link vs linqanonymous2006/11/07 07:13 AM
                                                                                                                  Thank you (NT)Michael S2006/11/07 08:04 AM
                                                                                                          Barcelona dreamsEric Bron2006/11/07 01:08 AM
                                                                                          Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/05 03:14 PM
                                                                                            Language safety in a multithread environmentRicardo B2006/11/05 03:56 PM
                                                                                              Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/05 06:52 PM
                                                                                                Language safety in a multithread environmentRicardo B2006/11/05 09:09 PM
                                                                                                  Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/06 02:25 PM
                                                                                                    Language safety in a multithread environmentRicardo B2006/11/06 03:48 PM
                                                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/06 04:44 PM
                                                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentRicardo B2006/11/06 04:53 PM
                                                                                                        A common problemRob Thorpe2006/11/07 09:45 AM
                                                                                                          A common problemWilco2006/11/09 04:46 PM
                                                                                                            A common problemRob Thorpe2006/11/10 08:29 AM
                                                                                                              A common problemrwessel2006/11/13 04:47 PM
                                                                                                                A common problemWilco2006/11/13 05:51 PM
                                                                                                                  A common problemRob Thorpe2006/11/14 03:38 AM
                                                                                                                    A common problemLinus Torvalds2006/11/14 09:37 AM
                                                                                                                      A common problemRob Thorpe2006/11/14 11:18 AM
                                                                                                                        A common problemagony2006/11/14 02:57 PM
                                                                                                                          A common problemrwessel2006/11/14 04:13 PM
                                                                                                                            A common problemAndi Kleen2006/11/15 04:24 AM
                                                                                                                              A common problemrwessel2006/11/15 04:42 PM
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                                                                                                                            A common problemWilco2006/11/15 01:54 PM
                                                                                                                              A common problemCarlie Coats2006/11/16 06:44 AM
                                                                                                                              A common problemLinus Torvalds2006/11/16 10:03 AM
                                                                                                                      A common problemCarlie Coats2006/11/16 06:38 AM
                                                                                                                        A common problemRob Thorpe2006/11/16 07:29 AM
                                                                                                                    A common problemWilco2006/11/15 02:13 PM
                                                                                                                      A common problemRob Thorpe2006/11/16 09:20 AM
                                                                                                                        A common problemrwessel2006/11/16 04:27 PM
                                                                                                                        A common problemWilco2006/11/17 02:20 PM
                                                                                                                          A common problemRob Thorpe2006/11/20 04:14 AM
                                                                                          You are aiming too lowMichael S2006/11/05 04:19 PM
                                                                                            And you're aiming quite highRob Thorpe2006/11/06 08:00 AM
                                                                                    Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/04 11:20 AM
                                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/11/06 04:10 AM
                                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/06 10:59 AM
                                                                                          Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/11/08 02:47 AM
                                                                                            Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/13 05:13 PM
                                                                                              Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/11/14 02:15 AM
                                                                                                Language safety in a multithread environmentWilco2006/11/17 02:51 PM
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                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/10/27 08:10 PM
                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentbandwidth2006/10/28 03:17 AM
                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentbandwidth2006/10/28 03:09 AM
                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/10/28 09:23 AM
                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/10/30 03:26 AM
                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentRicardo B2006/10/30 06:52 AM
                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentJasonB2006/10/30 07:12 AM
                                                                          Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/10/30 07:28 AM
                                                                            Language safety in a multithread environmentJasonB2006/10/30 08:32 AM
                                                                              Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/10/30 08:48 AM
                                                                                Language safety in a multithread environmentJasonB2006/10/30 09:21 AM
                                                                          Language safety in a multithread environmentRicardo B2006/10/30 07:31 AM
                                                                            Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/10/30 07:43 AM
                                                                              Language safety in a multithread environmentRicardo B2006/10/30 07:54 AM
                                                                                Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/10/30 08:02 AM
                                                                                  Language safety in a multithread environmentRicardo B2006/10/30 08:12 AM
                                                                                    Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/10/30 08:29 AM
                                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentRicardo B2006/10/30 08:40 AM
                                                                                Language safety in a multithread environmentdraugaz2006/10/30 12:31 PM
                                                                              Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/10/30 10:09 AM
                                                                                Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/10/31 02:01 AM
                                                                                  Language safety in a multithread environmentLinus Torvalds2006/10/31 08:59 AM
                                                                    Language safety in a multithread environmentpgerassi2006/10/27 08:00 PM
                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentbandwidth2006/10/28 03:25 AM
                                                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentpgerassi2006/10/31 01:32 AM
                                                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentRob Thorpe2006/10/31 06:52 AM
                                                        pythonFoo_2006/10/28 01:51 AM
                                                          pythonTzvetan Mikov2006/10/28 04:55 PM
                                                            pythonFoo_2006/10/29 03:51 AM
                                                          pythonRob Thorpe2006/10/31 05:01 AM
                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentTzvetan Mikov2006/10/24 10:53 AM
                                          Language safety in a multithread environmentRob Thorpe2006/10/25 01:00 AM
                                          Language safety in a multithread environment (Lock-free structures)Ray2006/10/28 11:25 AM
                                            Language safety in a multithread environment (Lock-free structures)Linus Torvalds2006/10/28 11:58 AM
                                              Language safety in a multithread environment (Lock-free structures)Ray2006/10/28 04:47 PM
                                                Language safety in a multithread environment (Lock-free structures)Linus Torvalds2006/10/28 08:02 PM
                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentJuho Snellman2006/10/25 03:59 AM
                                          Language safety in a multithread environmentRob Thorpe2006/10/25 04:38 AM
                                            Language safety in a multithread environmentJuho Snellman2006/10/25 06:38 AM
                                              Language safety in a multithread environmentRob Thorpe2006/10/25 07:06 AM
                                                More on this topicRob Thorpe2006/10/25 08:41 AM
                                                  More on this topicTzvetan Mikov2006/10/25 10:17 AM
                                                    More on this topicRob Thorpe2006/10/26 02:02 AM
                                                Language safety in a multithread environmentJuho Snellman2006/10/25 10:33 AM
                                                  Language safety in a multithread environmentRob Thorpe2006/10/26 01:48 AM
                                      Language safety in a multithread environmentS. Rao2006/10/23 03:40 PM
                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentTzvetan Mikov2006/10/23 11:38 PM
                                        Language safety in a multithread environmentGabriele Svelto2006/10/24 01:02 AM
                                          Language safety in a multithread environmentS. Rao2006/10/24 12:40 PM
                                        Comparison to stack allocationRob Thorpe2006/10/24 03:09 AM
                                          Comparison to stack allocationS. Rao2006/10/24 12:32 PM
                                            Exactly, see my other post (NT)Rob Thorpe2006/10/25 12:53 AM
                          Language safety in a multithread environmentDavid Wragg2006/10/20 02:46 AM
                            Language safety in a multithread environmentTzvetan Mikov2006/10/21 09:24 AM
                          Ugh, evil problemRob Thorpe2006/10/20 03:56 AM
                            Ugh, evil problemGabriele Svelto2006/10/20 04:38 AM
                              Ugh, evil problemRob Thorpe2006/10/20 05:47 AM
                                Ugh, evil problemGabriele Svelto2006/10/20 05:54 AM
                                Ugh, evil problemRicardo B2006/10/20 06:43 AM
                            Ugh, evil problemJasonB2006/10/20 06:17 AM
                              Ugh, evil problemS. Rao2006/10/20 08:09 PM
                                Ugh, evil problemJasonB2006/10/21 07:58 AM
                                SecondedRob Thorpe2006/10/23 01:53 AM
                          Copying GC Rob Thorpe2006/10/23 02:51 AM
                            Copying GC Tzvetan Mikov2006/10/23 11:13 PM
                              Copying GC Rob Thorpe2006/10/24 01:22 AM
              Python + native extensionsFoo_2006/10/18 02:29 PM
                Python + native extensionssp2006/10/19 01:05 AM
  z9 - Power5 connection?foobar2006/10/17 01:15 PM
    z9 - Power5 connection?David Kanter2006/10/17 02:03 PM
      z9 - Power5 connection?foobar2006/10/17 02:33 PM
        z9 - Power5 connection?rwessel2006/10/17 07:39 PM
          z9 - Power5 connection?foobar2006/10/17 08:38 PM
            Sounds like I should edit the article...David Kanter2006/10/17 10:48 PM
            z9 - Power5 connection?Jesper Frimann2006/10/17 11:59 PM
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How do you spell avocado?