Corestat for UltraSPARC T2/T2

This entry was posted in Storage, Unix and tagged , , , on June 17, 2012, by

Understanding processor utilization is important for performance analysis and capacity planning. With the launch of UltraSPARC T2/T2+ based servers I would like to revisit the topic of core utilization.

As we have seen earlier, for a Chip Multi Threaded (CMT) processor, like UltraSPARC T1, CPU utilization reported by conventional tools like mpstat/vmstat and core utilization reported using hardware performance counters in the processor are different metrics and both are equally important in performance analysis and tuning.

Before discussing the details about core utilization of UltraSPARC T2 and the details about corestat let us take a quick look at what does a core on UltraSPARC T2 look like. UltraSPARC T2 extends the CMT architecture of T1. It consists of eight cores where each core has eight hardware threads. Hardware threads within a core are grouped into two sets of four threads each. There are two integer pipelines within a core and each set of four threads share one integer pipeline. In this sense, the resources within a core are doubled from that in UltraSPARC T1. It is worth understanding that threads within a core do not switch pipelines and the assignment of threads to a pipeline is fixed and hardwired.

One more important addition to the resources within a core is a Floating Point Unit (FPU). Each core of T2, includes a FPU shared by all eight threads from that core. Other shared resources within a core include Level-1 Instruction (I) and Data (D) cache and Translation Look aside Buffers (TLBs) like I-TLB and D-TLB. All cores share a 4 MB Level-2 (L2) cache. Including these there are key features why both single thread and multi thread performance of UltraSPARC T2 is better than T1.

A quick look at the UltraSPARC T2 architecture features shows following enhancements which benefit single thread performance :

  • Increased frequency – 1400 MHz
  • Lower instruction latencies
  • Better Floating Point performance
  • Hardware TLB miss handling for I-TLB and D-TLB
  • Larger D-TLB size (128 entries v/s 64 entries)
  • Larger L2 cache (4 MB v/s 3 MB)
  • Full support of VIS 2.0 instruction set. No kernel emulation

Similarly following are some of the features of UltraSPARC T2 that benefit multi thread performance :

  • Two integer pipelines per core
  • Twice the number of hardware threads (64 v/s 32)
  • Higher L2 cache set associativity. 16 way compared to 12 way
  • Instruction cache being 8 way associative compared to 4 way
  • Dedicated Floating point unit per core shared by all 8 strands, improved FP throughput
  • Memory interface supports FBDIMMs for higher capacity and bandwidth
  • Support for shared context feature where multiple contexts share the same entry in the TLB for mappings to the same address segment
  • Streaming Processing Unit (SPU) per core for on chip encryption/decryption support

Now, let us look at the topic of core utilization. All the important concepts like thread scheduling, idle hardware thread, stalled thread etc. All those concepts generally hold good for T2 however there are subtle differences such as on T2 an integer pipeline remaining idle doesn’t mean a full core remains idle. Both the pipelines within a core can concurrently execute one instruction per cycle hence at 1417 MHz frequency, a core can execute maximum of 2x1417x1000x1000 instructions/second.

Considering these differences, corestat for UltraSPARC T2 has been enhanced. The main enhancements are :

  1. It now reports the utilization of each pipeline separately. By default only the integer pipe utilization is reported.
  2. There is a new command line option “-g” added to report the FPU utilization along with integer utilization.
  3. Corestat detects frequency of the target system at run time.

Corestat Features and Usage

While the usage remains same, corestat for UltraSPARC T2 can be used in two modes :

  1. For online monitoring purpose, it requires root privileges. This is the default mode of operation. Default reporting interval is 10 sec and it assumes the frequency of 1417 MHz.
  2. It can be used to report core utilization by post processing already sampled cpustat data using following command line :

cpustat -n -c pic0=Instr_cnt,pic1=Instr_FGU_arithmetic -c pic0=Instr_cnt,pic1=Instr_FGU_arithmetic,nouser,sys 1


$ corestat
Frequency = 1050 MHz
corestat : Permission denied. Needs root privilege…


Usage : corestat [-g] [-v] [[-f <infile>] [-i <interval>] [-r <freq>]]
Default mode : Report Integer Pipeline Utilization
-g                     : Report FPU usage
-v                     : Report version number
-f infile            : Filename containing sampled cpustat data
-i interval       : Reporting interval in sec (default = 10 sec)
-r freq             : Processor frequency in MHz (default = 1417 MHz)

# corestat -g

Core Utilization for Integer pipeline
Core,Int-pipe     %Usr     %Sys     %Usr+Sys
————-             —–         —–        ——–
0,0                   0.00          0.19      0.20
0,1                   0.00          0.01      0.01
1,0                   0.00          0.03      0.03
1,1                   0.00          0.01      0.01
2,0                   1.15          0.02      1.16
2,1                   0.00          0.01      0.01
3,0                   0.02          0.02      0.04
3,1                   0.00          0.01      0.01
4,0                   0.00          0.02      0.03
4,1                   0.00          0.01      0.01
5,0                   0.02          0.01      0.03
5,1                   0.00          0.01      0.01
6,0                   0.05          0.03      0.08
6,1                   0.00          0.01      0.01
7,0                   0.00          0.03      0.03
7,1                   0.00          0.01      0.01
————-             —–         —–    ——
Avg                   0.08          0.03      0.10

FPU Utilization
Core         %Usr     %Sys     %Usr+Sys
————-         —–         —–     ——–
0                0.02          0.01      0.03
1                0.02          0.01      0.03
2                0.01          0.01      0.03
3                0.01          0.01      0.03
4                0.02         0.01      0.04
5                0.02          0.02      0.04
6                0.02          0.02      0.04
7                0.02          0.02      0.04
————-         —–         —–    ——
Avg           0.02          0.02      0.04

As far as interpretation of corestat data is concerned, all the points mentioned. Since core saturation (measured using corestat) and virtual CPU saturation (measured using vmstat/mpstat) are two different aspects, we need to monitor both simultaneously in order to determine whether an application is likely to saturate the core by using fewer application threads. In such cases, increasing workload (e.g. by increasing the number of threads) may not yield any more performance. On the other hand, most often we will see applications having high Cycles Per Instructions (CPI) and thereby not being able to saturate the cores fully before achieving 100% CPU utilization.

While I make this new version of corestat available here.. we are already looking at a number of RFEs received as comments on my earlier blog and via e-mails to me. Some of the points being considered. Stay tuned !!

Corestat for UltraSPARC T1


For UltraSPARC T1 processor a hardware thread being idle and a core becoming idle are two different things and hence need to be understood separately. Corestat is a tool for measuring core utilization of UltraSPARC T1 processor. By using Corestat alone with other conventional tools like mpstat and vmstat, you can get a better idea about any possible scaling issues as well as can be useful for capacity planning.

Corestat Features and Usage

Corestat is a tool to monitor the utilization of UltraSPARC T1 cores. Corestat reports aggregate core usage based on the instructions executed by a core (i.e. by the available Virtual Processors sharing the same core).

Corestat can be used in two modes :

  1. It can be used for online monitoring of core usage. It requires root privilege for online monitoring purpose. This is the default mode of operation. Default reporting interval is 10 sec. Corestat assumes the processor frequency of 1200 MHz.

Usage :

$ corestat

corestat : Permission denied. Needs root privilege…

Usage : corestat [-v] [[-f <infile>] [-i <interval>] [-r <freq>]]

-v : Report version number

-f infile : Filename containing sampled cpustat data

-i interval : Reporting interval in sec (default = 10 sec)

-r freq : Processor frequency in MHz (default = 1200 MHz.)

  1. It can be used to report core utilization by post processing sampled cpustat data. It assumes that cpustat data was sampled with 1 sec sampling interval and was collected for both user and system mode.

Following is an example of cpustat command used for collecting data which can be post-processed by corestat.

cpustat -n -c pic0=L2_dmiss_ld,pic1=Instr_cnt \

-c pic0=L2_dmiss_ld,pic1=Instr_cnt,nouser,sys 1

Note, use -r option during offline processing of cpustat data if the frequency is different than default 1200 Mhz


Corestat for SPARC64 VI and SPARC64 VII Processors


Corestat is now available for the SPARC64 VI and SPARC64 VII processors.

Corestat Frequently Asked Questions :

Q: There is already vmstat and mpstat. Why do we need corestat ?
A:  vmstat and mpstat report CPU utilization. Conventionally if a processor is not idle it is considered as busy. A processor can be stalled and hence will not be executing any instructions. However it is still reported as busy because the pipeline is not freed to other runnable threads on the system. Hence conventional tools like vmstat and mpstat report pipeline occupancy which is same as CPU utilization for non-CMT processors. Idle time reported by mpstat can be used to decide about adding more load on the system.

On UltraSPARC T1, there exist two main differences why we need to understand the core utilization separately from the CPU utilization.

  1. Idle hardware threads :

    On UltraSPARC T1, an idle h/w thread is parked by Solaris. It is taken out of the mix of the schedulable threads and its time slot is allocated to the next hardware thread. This will get reported as idle under mpstat for that hardware thread (i.e. CPU). However, since the pipeline is shared by three other threads on the same core, that core can still execute instructions and hence an idle hardware thread is not same as an idle core.

  2. Stalled hardware threads :

    On UltraSPARC T1, when a h/w thread stalls due to a long latency instruction (such as a load), it is taken out of the mix of schedulable threads with allowing the next chosen thread to use its time slice. A stalled thread is reported as 100% busy by mpstat (similar to non-CMT cpus). However, it won’t execute any instructions and the same pipeline during the same time can be shared (time sliced) with other threads and hence can still execute instructions.

    From corestat data We can get an idea about the head room available for performance. High percentage of core usage means the processor has less head room available for processing more load. It also means that the pipeline is being used effectively.

Q:  How to use corestat along with conventional vmstat/mpstat tools ?
A:  Corestat and mpstat (or vmstat) need to be used together to make decisions about system utilization.

Here is an explanation for a few possible scenarios:

  1. Vmstat reports 75% idle and corestat reports 20% utilization :

    Since vmstat reports huge idle time as well as the core usage is also low, there is head room for applying more load. Any performance gain by increasing load will depend on the characteristic of the application.

  2. Vmstat reports 100% busy and corestat reports 50% utilization :

    Since vmstat reports CPUs being 100% busy, there is really no more head room to schedule any more software threads. Hence the system is at its peak load. Low (i.e. 50%) core utilization indicates that the application is only utilizing each core to its 50% capacity and the cores are not saturated.

  3. Vmstat reports 75% idle and corestat reports 50% utilization :

    Since core utilization is higher than CPU utilization reported by vmstat, this is an indication that the processor can get saturated by having fewer software threads than the available hardware threads i.e. CPUs. It is also an indication of “LOW CPI” application. In this case, scalability will be limited by core saturation and adding more load after that point will not help achieve any more performance.

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