[dpdk-users] HW cache utilisation w OVS-DPDK

Van Haaren, Harry harry.van.haaren at intel.com
Wed May 1 12:35:15 CEST 2019


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> From: Avi Cohen [mailto:acohen at ves.io] 
> Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2019 9:08 PM
> To: Van Haaren, Harry <harry.van.haaren at intel.com>
> Cc: Sara Gittlin <sara.gittlin at gmail.com>; users at dpdk.org
> Subject: Re: [dpdk-users] HW cache utilisation w OVS-DPDK
> Thank you Harry very much for your detailed answer.


> I think that ovs with Data plane is a kernel module (i.e. not ovs dpdk) the flow table is somehow always in the cache,
> hence there is an eviction function in user space that is sending commands to the kernel to delete non active flows in
> order to make place in this expensive cache memory. But i dont know how it is w ovs-dpdk. I know that generaly caches
> mem are transprant to sw, but w ovs kernel module the flow table is always stored in cache.

Aha - perhaps we need to clear up a few terminology issues.

HW caches like L1, L2 and LLC are present in the CPU silicon, and are transparent to software (same as before).

However, we can build data-structures in software that act as a "cache" for packet flows etc. These are also referred to as caches, however they are not the CPU caches :)

The term "cache" is used for both - a search tells me it technically means to "store away in hiding or for future use."

Based on your question about flow-table caching, I now understand that it is not the HW CPU caches you are interested in, but the software data-structures that provide packet-flow caching.

Correct, there are a number of flow-cache structures in OvS, depending on the exact configuration and options you enable.
I am not very familiar with the kernel data-path, however the EMC (Exact Match Cache) and SMC (Signature Match Cache) are two flow-caches available in OvS-DPDK. These are software data-structures, which enable faster lookups of packets, in order to identify the "rule" to apply to that packet flow. 

The flows are "cached" in this software data-structure, but can also be removed again to make more space for other flows.
Often the effectiveness of looking up items in a software cache is proportional to how full the cache is, due to hash-table collisions as they get fuller (and hence having to dig "deeper" into a hashtable to find the cached-entry, causing more CPU %). Hence, removing flows which are no longer active can be a good idea.

> Thanks again Harry
> -Sara

Hope the above is a bit more answering the software caching question I think you are interested in.

Regards, -Harry

> בתאריך יום ג׳, 30 באפר׳ 2019, 21:33, מאת Van Haaren, Harry ‏<harry.van.haaren at intel.com>:
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: users [mailto:users-bounces at dpdk.org] On Behalf Of Sara Gittlin
> > Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2019 6:15 PM
> > To: users at dpdk.org
> > Subject: [dpdk-users] HW cache utilisation w OVS-DPDK
> > 
> > Hello  All
> Hi Sara,
> > It is a naive and maybe a stupid question , but do we use HW cache L1/L2
> > etc with OVS-DPDK?
> The hardware CPU caches (L1, L2 and LLC) are transparent to software.
> Another way to say that is that When writing code, the software doesn't
> have to explicitly use L1 or L2, the memory being used (from libc malloc() or stack memory)
> is cached by the CPU without any software involvement.
> In short, software uses L1/L2/etc without "knowing" it as such...
> However, just because we (as C software developers) cannot directly access cache,
> does not mean that we should ignore it! In particular designing cache-conscious
> data-structures can have a *huge* impact on runtime performance.
> I recommend some of the CPP Con talks on software performance, particularly
> the one titled "Efficiency with Algorithms, Performance with Data Structures".
> > for example  where the flow-table  is stored ? in  HW-cache or in RAM?
> This is a good question - and the answer is like so many engineering questions - it depends :)
> If the part of the flow-table has been recently accessed, it is likely to be in the HW-cache.
> If the flow-table has been initialized, but not used recently it is likely to be in ordinary RAM.
> From a performance point of view, this is quite interesting, as certain flow-table accesses
> are expected to be cheap (in cache) while others might take longer (RAM).
> > Thank you
> > -Sara
> Hope that helps! Regards, -Harry

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