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The New percpu Interface

The 2.6 kernel introduced a new interface, known as percpu, for creating and manipulating per-CPU data. This interface generalizes the previous example. Creation and manipulation of per-CPU data is simplified with this new approach.

The previously discussed method of creating and accessing per-CPU data is still valid and accepted. This new interface, however, grew out of the needs for a simpler and more powerful method for manipulating per-CPU data on large symmetrical multiprocessing computers.

The header <linux/percpu.h> declares all the routines. You can find the actual definitions there, in mm/slab.c, and in <asm/percpu.h>.

Per-CPU Data at Compile-Time

Defining a per-CPU variable at compile-time is quite easy:

DEFINE_PER_CPU(type, name);

This creates an instance of a variable of type type, named name, for each processor on the system. If you need a declaration of the variable elsewhere, to avoid compile warnings, the following macro is your friend:

DECLARE_PER_CPU(type, name);

You can manipulate the variables with the get_cpu_var() and put_cpu_var() routines. A call to get_cpu_var() returns an lvalue for the given variable on the current processor. It also disables preemption, which put_cpu_var() correspondingly enables.

get_cpu_var(name)++;    /* increment name on this processor */
put_cpu_var(name);      /* done; enable kernel preemption */

You can obtain the value of another processor's per-CPU data, too:

per_cpu(name, cpu)++;   /* increment name on the given processor */

You need to be careful with this approach because per_cpu() neither disables kernel preemption nor provides any sort of locking mechanism. The lockless nature of per-CPU data exists only if the current processor is the only manipulator of the data. If other processors touch other processors' data, you need locks. Be careful. Chapter 8, "Kernel Synchronization Introduction," and Chapter 9, "Kernel Synchronization Methods," discuss locking.

Another subtle note: These compile-time per-CPU examples do not work for mod ules because the linker actually creates them in a unique executable section (for the curious, .data.percpu). If you need to access per-CPU data from modules, or if you need to create such data dynamically, there is hope.

Per-CPU Data at Runtime

The kernel implements a dynamic allocator, similar to kmalloc(), for creating per-CPU data. This routine creates an instance of the requested memory for each processor on the systems. The prototypes are in <linux/percpu.h>:

void *alloc_percpu(type);  /* a macro */
void *__alloc_percpu(size_t size, size_t align);
void free_percpu(const void *);

The alloc_percpu() macro allocates one instance of an object of the given type for every processor on the system. It is a wrapper around __alloc_percpu(), which takes the actual number of bytes to allocate as a parameter and the number of bytes on which to align the allocation. The alloc_percpu() macro aligns the allocation on a byte boundary that is the natural alignment of the given type. Such alignment is the usual behavior. For example,

struct rabid_cheetah = alloc_percpu(struct rabid_cheetah);

is the same as

struct rabid_cheetah = __alloc_percpu(sizeof (struct rabid_cheetah),
                                      __alignof__ (struct rabid_cheetah));

The __alignof__ construct is a gcc feature that returns the required (or recommended, in the case of weird architectures with no alignment requirements) alignment in bytes for a given type or lvalue. Its syntax is just like that of sizeof. For example,

__alignof__ (unsigned long)

would return four on x86. When given an lvalue, the return value is the largest alignment that the lvalue might have. For example, an lvalue inside a structure could have a greater alignment requirement than if an instance of the same type were created outside of the structure, because of structure alignment requirements. Issues of alignment are further discussed in Chapter 19, "Portability."

A corresponding call to free_percpu() frees the given data on all processors.

A call to alloc_percpu() or __alloc_percpu() returns a pointer, which is used to indirectly reference the dynamically created per-CPU data. The kernel provides two macros to make this easy:

get_cpu_ptr(ptr);    /* return a void pointer to this processor's copy of ptr */
put_cpu_ptr(ptr);    /* done; enable kernel preemption */

The get_cpu_ptr() macro returns a pointer to the specific instance of the current processor's data. It also disables kernel preemption, which a call to put_cpu_ptr() then enables.

Let's look at a full example of using these functions. Of course, this example is a bit silly because you would normally allocate the memory once (perhaps in some initialization function), use it in various places, and free it once (perhaps in some shutdown function). Nevertheless, this example should make usage quite clear:

void *percpu_ptr;
unsigned long *foo;

percpu_ptr = alloc_percpu(unsigned long);
if (!ptr)
        /* error allocating memory .. */

foo = get_cpu_ptr(percpu_ptr);
/* manipulate foo .. */

Finally, the function per_cpu_ptr() returns a given processor's unique data:

per_cpu_ptr(ptr, cpu);

Again, it does not disable kernel preemptionand if you touch another processor's datakeep in mind that you probably need to implement locking.

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