A new dimension in operating systems for performance management

Industrial pc, Networking appliance, Console server

Given the increased complexity of processors and applications, the current generation of Operating Systems (OSs) focuses mostly on software integrity while partially neglecting the need to extract maximum performance out of the existing hardware.

Processors perform as well as OSs allow them to. A computing platform,  or otherwise, consists of not only physical resources – memory, CPU cores, peripherals, and buses – managed with some success by resource partitioning (virtualization), but also performance resources such as CPU cycles, clock speed, memory and I/O bandwidth, and main/cache memory space. These resources are managed by ancient methods like priority or time slices or not managed at all. As a result, processors are underutilized and consume too much energy, robbing them of their true performance potential.

Most existing management schemes are fragmented. CPU cycles are managed by priorities and temporal isolation, meaning applications that need to finish in a preset amount of time are reserved that time, whether they actually need it or not. Because execution time is not safely predictable due to cache misses, miss speculation, and I/O blocking, the reserved time is typically longer than it needs to be. To ensure that the modem stack in a smartphone receives enough CPU cycles to carry on a call, other applications might be restricted to not run concurrently. This explains why some users of an unnamed brand handset complain that when the phone rings, GPS drops.

Separate from this, power management has recently received a great deal of interest. Notice the “separate” characterization. Most deployed solutions are good at detecting idle times, use modes with slow system response, or particular applications where the CPU can run at lower clock speeds and thus save energy. For example, Intel came up with Hurry Up and Get Idle (HUGI). To understand HUGI, consider this analogy: Someone can use an Indy car at full speed to reach a destination and then park it, but perhaps using a Prius to get there just in time would be more practical. Which do you think uses less gas? Power management based on use modes has too coarse a granularity to effectively mine all energy reduction opportunities all the time.



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