[Libre-soc-isa] [Bug 623] Switching off parts of the CPU - power saving

bugzilla-daemon at libre-soc.org bugzilla-daemon at libre-soc.org
Mon Apr 12 18:56:11 BST 2021


Jacob Lifshay <programmerjake at gmail.com> changed:

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                 CC|                            |programmerjake at gmail.com

--- Comment #1 from Jacob Lifshay <programmerjake at gmail.com> ---
I think powering off portions of the cpu could definitely be controlled by the
OS, however, powering them back on should be controlled by the cpu hardware --
when it encounters a instruction needing those portions.

I'd expect the power-on latency could be on the order of a few 10s or 100s of
nanoseconds, at which scale calling out to the OS greatly increases latency.

I think it's faster than voltage/frequency switching because V/F switching
usually involves adjusting the power-supply voltage, that takes on the order of
microseconds, dwarfing the interrupt-to-OS latency.

To help the OS decide when to power-off parts of the cpu, I think we need
32-bit saturating counters (16-bit is not enough, 64-bit is overkill,
saturating to avoid issues with wrap-around which would happen once a second at
4GHz) of the number of clock cycles since the last time that part was last
used. The counter is set to 0 when the cpu part is powered-back-on, even if it
didn't end up being used (e.g. mis-speculation). The counters *must* be
privileged-only, since they form an excellent side-channel for speculative
execution due to mis-speculation still being a use of that hardware.

We could have a simple OS-controlled compare register for each part where the
part is powered-down if the compare register is < the last-use counter,
allowing simple HW power management. If the OS wants finer control, it can set
the compare register to 0xFFFFFFFF to force-power-on the part, and to something
less than the current counter to power-down the part.

I picked < instead of <= so both:
1. 0xFFFFFFFF will never power-down since the counter stops at 0xFFFFFFFF and
2. 0 will still power-on the part if it's in use, since the counter is
continuously cleared to 0 while the part is in use, and it remains powered on
since 0 is not < 0.

It might be handy to have a separate register the previous count is copied to
when a part is powered-on, allowing the OS to detect edge-cases like the part
being used shortly after power-off, allowing the OS to adjust the power-off
interval to better optimize for the program's usage patterns.

There would be one set of those 32-bit registers (maybe combined into 64-bit
registers) for each independent power-zone on the cpu core.

The compare field should be set to some reasonable default on core reset, I'd
use 10000 as a reasonable first guess.

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