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authorMauro Carvalho Chehab <>2019-06-12 14:53:00 -0300
committerJonathan Corbet <>2019-06-14 14:31:48 -0600
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treec44aafca54ae7d01160fe8ef09e7999594145a67 /Documentation/timers/highres.rst
parent4ca9bc225e46eb7bc040dd948be7cb68975d80d3 (diff)
docs: timers: convert docs to ReST and rename to *.rst
The conversion here is really trivial: just a bunch of title markups and very few puntual changes is enough to make it to be parsed by Sphinx and generate a nice html. The conversion is actually: - add blank lines and identation in order to identify paragraphs; - fix tables markups; - add some lists markups; - mark literal blocks; - adjust title markups. At its new index.rst, let's add a :orphan: while this is not linked to the main index.rst file, in order to avoid build warnings. Signed-off-by: Mauro Carvalho Chehab <> Acked-by: Mark Brown <> Signed-off-by: Jonathan Corbet <>
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+High resolution timers and dynamic ticks design notes
+Further information can be found in the paper of the OLS 2006 talk "hrtimers
+and beyond". The paper is part of the OLS 2006 Proceedings Volume 1, which can
+be found on the OLS website:
+The slides to this talk are available from:
+The slides contain five figures (pages 2, 15, 18, 20, 22), which illustrate the
+changes in the time(r) related Linux subsystems. Figure #1 (p. 2) shows the
+design of the Linux time(r) system before hrtimers and other building blocks
+got merged into mainline.
+Note: the paper and the slides are talking about "clock event source", while we
+switched to the name "clock event devices" in meantime.
+The design contains the following basic building blocks:
+- hrtimer base infrastructure
+- timeofday and clock source management
+- clock event management
+- high resolution timer functionality
+- dynamic ticks
+hrtimer base infrastructure
+The hrtimer base infrastructure was merged into the 2.6.16 kernel. Details of
+the base implementation are covered in Documentation/timers/hrtimers.rst. See
+also figure #2 (OLS slides p. 15)
+The main differences to the timer wheel, which holds the armed timer_list type
+timers are:
+ - time ordered enqueueing into a rb-tree
+ - independent of ticks (the processing is based on nanoseconds)
+timeofday and clock source management
+John Stultz's Generic Time Of Day (GTOD) framework moves a large portion of
+code out of the architecture-specific areas into a generic management
+framework, as illustrated in figure #3 (OLS slides p. 18). The architecture
+specific portion is reduced to the low level hardware details of the clock
+sources, which are registered in the framework and selected on a quality based
+decision. The low level code provides hardware setup and readout routines and
+initializes data structures, which are used by the generic time keeping code to
+convert the clock ticks to nanosecond based time values. All other time keeping
+related functionality is moved into the generic code. The GTOD base patch got
+merged into the 2.6.18 kernel.
+Further information about the Generic Time Of Day framework is available in the
+OLS 2005 Proceedings Volume 1:
+The paper "We Are Not Getting Any Younger: A New Approach to Time and
+Timers" was written by J. Stultz, D.V. Hart, & N. Aravamudan.
+Figure #3 (OLS slides p.18) illustrates the transformation.
+clock event management
+While clock sources provide read access to the monotonically increasing time
+value, clock event devices are used to schedule the next event
+interrupt(s). The next event is currently defined to be periodic, with its
+period defined at compile time. The setup and selection of the event device
+for various event driven functionalities is hardwired into the architecture
+dependent code. This results in duplicated code across all architectures and
+makes it extremely difficult to change the configuration of the system to use
+event interrupt devices other than those already built into the
+architecture. Another implication of the current design is that it is necessary
+to touch all the architecture-specific implementations in order to provide new
+functionality like high resolution timers or dynamic ticks.
+The clock events subsystem tries to address this problem by providing a generic
+solution to manage clock event devices and their usage for the various clock
+event driven kernel functionalities. The goal of the clock event subsystem is
+to minimize the clock event related architecture dependent code to the pure
+hardware related handling and to allow easy addition and utilization of new
+clock event devices. It also minimizes the duplicated code across the
+architectures as it provides generic functionality down to the interrupt
+service handler, which is almost inherently hardware dependent.
+Clock event devices are registered either by the architecture dependent boot
+code or at module insertion time. Each clock event device fills a data
+structure with clock-specific property parameters and callback functions. The
+clock event management decides, by using the specified property parameters, the
+set of system functions a clock event device will be used to support. This
+includes the distinction of per-CPU and per-system global event devices.
+System-level global event devices are used for the Linux periodic tick. Per-CPU
+event devices are used to provide local CPU functionality such as process
+accounting, profiling, and high resolution timers.
+The management layer assigns one or more of the following functions to a clock
+event device:
+ - system global periodic tick (jiffies update)
+ - cpu local update_process_times
+ - cpu local profiling
+ - cpu local next event interrupt (non periodic mode)
+The clock event device delegates the selection of those timer interrupt related
+functions completely to the management layer. The clock management layer stores
+a function pointer in the device description structure, which has to be called
+from the hardware level handler. This removes a lot of duplicated code from the
+architecture specific timer interrupt handlers and hands the control over the
+clock event devices and the assignment of timer interrupt related functionality
+to the core code.
+The clock event layer API is rather small. Aside from the clock event device
+registration interface it provides functions to schedule the next event
+interrupt, clock event device notification service and support for suspend and
+The framework adds about 700 lines of code which results in a 2KB increase of
+the kernel binary size. The conversion of i386 removes about 100 lines of
+code. The binary size decrease is in the range of 400 byte. We believe that the
+increase of flexibility and the avoidance of duplicated code across
+architectures justifies the slight increase of the binary size.
+The conversion of an architecture has no functional impact, but allows to
+utilize the high resolution and dynamic tick functionalities without any change
+to the clock event device and timer interrupt code. After the conversion the
+enabling of high resolution timers and dynamic ticks is simply provided by
+adding the kernel/time/Kconfig file to the architecture specific Kconfig and
+adding the dynamic tick specific calls to the idle routine (a total of 3 lines
+added to the idle function and the Kconfig file)
+Figure #4 (OLS slides p.20) illustrates the transformation.
+high resolution timer functionality
+During system boot it is not possible to use the high resolution timer
+functionality, while making it possible would be difficult and would serve no
+useful function. The initialization of the clock event device framework, the
+clock source framework (GTOD) and hrtimers itself has to be done and
+appropriate clock sources and clock event devices have to be registered before
+the high resolution functionality can work. Up to the point where hrtimers are
+initialized, the system works in the usual low resolution periodic mode. The
+clock source and the clock event device layers provide notification functions
+which inform hrtimers about availability of new hardware. hrtimers validates
+the usability of the registered clock sources and clock event devices before
+switching to high resolution mode. This ensures also that a kernel which is
+configured for high resolution timers can run on a system which lacks the
+necessary hardware support.
+The high resolution timer code does not support SMP machines which have only
+global clock event devices. The support of such hardware would involve IPI
+calls when an interrupt happens. The overhead would be much larger than the
+benefit. This is the reason why we currently disable high resolution and
+dynamic ticks on i386 SMP systems which stop the local APIC in C3 power
+state. A workaround is available as an idea, but the problem has not been
+tackled yet.
+The time ordered insertion of timers provides all the infrastructure to decide
+whether the event device has to be reprogrammed when a timer is added. The
+decision is made per timer base and synchronized across per-cpu timer bases in
+a support function. The design allows the system to utilize separate per-CPU
+clock event devices for the per-CPU timer bases, but currently only one
+reprogrammable clock event device per-CPU is utilized.
+When the timer interrupt happens, the next event interrupt handler is called
+from the clock event distribution code and moves expired timers from the
+red-black tree to a separate double linked list and invokes the softirq
+handler. An additional mode field in the hrtimer structure allows the system to
+execute callback functions directly from the next event interrupt handler. This
+is restricted to code which can safely be executed in the hard interrupt
+context. This applies, for example, to the common case of a wakeup function as
+used by nanosleep. The advantage of executing the handler in the interrupt
+context is the avoidance of up to two context switches - from the interrupted
+context to the softirq and to the task which is woken up by the expired
+Once a system has switched to high resolution mode, the periodic tick is
+switched off. This disables the per system global periodic clock event device -
+e.g. the PIT on i386 SMP systems.
+The periodic tick functionality is provided by an per-cpu hrtimer. The callback
+function is executed in the next event interrupt context and updates jiffies
+and calls update_process_times and profiling. The implementation of the hrtimer
+based periodic tick is designed to be extended with dynamic tick functionality.
+This allows to use a single clock event device to schedule high resolution
+timer and periodic events (jiffies tick, profiling, process accounting) on UP
+systems. This has been proved to work with the PIT on i386 and the Incrementer
+on PPC.
+The softirq for running the hrtimer queues and executing the callbacks has been
+separated from the tick bound timer softirq to allow accurate delivery of high
+resolution timer signals which are used by itimer and POSIX interval
+timers. The execution of this softirq can still be delayed by other softirqs,
+but the overall latencies have been significantly improved by this separation.
+Figure #5 (OLS slides p.22) illustrates the transformation.
+dynamic ticks
+Dynamic ticks are the logical consequence of the hrtimer based periodic tick
+replacement (sched_tick). The functionality of the sched_tick hrtimer is
+extended by three functions:
+- hrtimer_stop_sched_tick
+- hrtimer_restart_sched_tick
+- hrtimer_update_jiffies
+hrtimer_stop_sched_tick() is called when a CPU goes into idle state. The code
+evaluates the next scheduled timer event (from both hrtimers and the timer
+wheel) and in case that the next event is further away than the next tick it
+reprograms the sched_tick to this future event, to allow longer idle sleeps
+without worthless interruption by the periodic tick. The function is also
+called when an interrupt happens during the idle period, which does not cause a
+reschedule. The call is necessary as the interrupt handler might have armed a
+new timer whose expiry time is before the time which was identified as the
+nearest event in the previous call to hrtimer_stop_sched_tick.
+hrtimer_restart_sched_tick() is called when the CPU leaves the idle state before
+it calls schedule(). hrtimer_restart_sched_tick() resumes the periodic tick,
+which is kept active until the next call to hrtimer_stop_sched_tick().
+hrtimer_update_jiffies() is called from irq_enter() when an interrupt happens
+in the idle period to make sure that jiffies are up to date and the interrupt
+handler has not to deal with an eventually stale jiffy value.
+The dynamic tick feature provides statistical values which are exported to
+userspace via /proc/stat and can be made available for enhanced power
+management control.
+The implementation leaves room for further development like full tickless
+systems, where the time slice is controlled by the scheduler, variable
+frequency profiling, and a complete removal of jiffies in the future.
+Aside the current initial submission of i386 support, the patchset has been
+extended to x86_64 and ARM already. Initial (work in progress) support is also
+available for MIPS and PowerPC.
+ Thomas, Ingo