How to read stale values on x86

Jenkins

New Member
#1
My goal is to read in stale and outdated values of memory without cache-coherence. I have attempted to use prefetchnta to perform a non-temporal load, but it failed to fetch outdated values. I am looking into performing some kind of Streaming Memory-to-Memory Direct-Memory-Access, but am having a little trouble due to the overwhelming amount of background knowledge required to proceed with my current project. Currently I am attempting to mess around with udmabuf but even that is going slowly. It should be noted that ideally I would like to ignore the contents of all CPU caches, including the current CPU.

To provide my reasoning as to why: I am developing software that can be used to prove correctness of programs written for non-volatile memory. As the CPU Cache is volatile, the CPU's write-back cache will still be volatile and the arbitrary nature of how they are written back to memory needs to be observed.

I would sincerely appreciate it if someone could give me some pointers of how to proceed. I do not mind digging into the Linux kernel, as in fact I am doing that now, nor do I mind modifying it, I just need a little guidance in the right direction.
 

Admin

Administrator
Thành viên BQT
#2
I haven't played around with this, but my understanding from the docs is that for loads (unlike NT stores) nothing can bypass cache or override the strong ordering of memory types like the normal WB (write-back). And even NT stores evict already-cached data, so they can't break coherence for this or another core that has cached data for the line you're writing.

You can do weakly-ordered loads from WC (write-combining) memory regions (with prefetchnta or SSE4 movntdqa), but they're probably still coherent at the physical address level.

IIRC Intel warns the developer about multiple mapping with different cache types, which may indeed be good in this case.
so maybe you could actually bypass cache coherence with multiple virtual mappings of the same physical page.

I don't know if it's still possible to do non-coherent DMA with a PCI / PCIe device, but that might be your only hope for getting actual DRAM contents without going through cache. (Most(?) DMA on modern x86 systems is cache-coherent, which is good for performance and possible because the memory controllers are built-in to the CPU. So on Intel CPUs, the system agent can snoop L3 tags to see if a line is cached anywhere on-chip in parallel with sending the request to the memory controller.)

There's an INVD instruction which invalidates all caches without doing write-back first, but I think that includes the shared L3 cache, and probably the private caches of all other cores. So you can't practically use it on a Linux system where other cores are potentially in the middle of doing stuff; you'd potentially corrupt kernel data structures by using it, as well as simulating power failure on a machine with NVDIMMs for the process you were interested in.

Maybe if you somehow offlined all the other CPU cores, and disabled interrupts on the one core that was still up

Then re-enable interrupts. Interrupt handlers could end up with some kernel data cached and some in memory, or get device drivers out of sync with hardware, if any interrupts are handled between the wbinvd and the invd.
 
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Jenkins

New Member
#3
Thank you, you didn't just answer my question, but gave me three separate approaches to obtaining a solution.Truly appreciate this as now I have a path forward.
 
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