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Supporting PMUs on RISC-V platforms
Alan Kao <>, Mar 2018
As of this writing, perf_event-related features mentioned in The RISC-V ISA
Privileged Version 1.10 are as follows:
(please check the manual for more details)
* [m|s]counteren
* mcycle[h], cycle[h]
* minstret[h], instret[h]
* mhpeventx, mhpcounterx[h]
With such function set only, porting perf would require a lot of work, due to
the lack of the following general architectural performance monitoring features:
* Enabling/Disabling counters
Counters are just free-running all the time in our case.
* Interrupt caused by counter overflow
No such feature in the spec.
* Interrupt indicator
It is not possible to have many interrupt ports for all counters, so an
interrupt indicator is required for software to tell which counter has
just overflowed.
* Writing to counters
There will be an SBI to support this since the kernel cannot modify the
counters [1]. Alternatively, some vendor considers to implement
hardware-extension for M-S-U model machines to write counters directly.
This document aims to provide developers a quick guide on supporting their
PMUs in the kernel. The following sections briefly explain perf' mechanism
and todos.
You may check previous discussions here [1][2]. Also, it might be helpful
to check the appendix for related kernel structures.
1. Initialization
*riscv_pmu* is a global pointer of type *struct riscv_pmu*, which contains
various methods according to perf's internal convention and PMU-specific
parameters. One should declare such instance to represent the PMU. By default,
*riscv_pmu* points to a constant structure *riscv_base_pmu*, which has very
basic support to a baseline QEMU model.
Then he/she can either assign the instance's pointer to *riscv_pmu* so that
the minimal and already-implemented logic can be leveraged, or invent his/her
own *riscv_init_platform_pmu* implementation.
In other words, existing sources of *riscv_base_pmu* merely provide a
reference implementation. Developers can flexibly decide how many parts they
can leverage, and in the most extreme case, they can customize every function
according to their needs.
2. Event Initialization
When a user launches a perf command to monitor some events, it is first
interpreted by the userspace perf tool into multiple *perf_event_open*
system calls, and then each of them calls to the body of *event_init*
member function that was assigned in the previous step. In *riscv_base_pmu*'s
case, it is *riscv_event_init*.
The main purpose of this function is to translate the event provided by user
into bitmap, so that HW-related control registers or counters can directly be
manipulated. The translation is based on the mappings and methods provided in
Note that some features can be done in this stage as well:
(1) interrupt setting, which is stated in the next section;
(2) privilege level setting (user space only, kernel space only, both);
(3) destructor setting. Normally it is sufficient to apply *riscv_destroy_event*;
(4) tweaks for non-sampling events, which will be utilized by functions such as
*perf_adjust_period*, usually something like the follows::
if (!is_sampling_event(event)) {
hwc->sample_period = x86_pmu.max_period;
hwc->last_period = hwc->sample_period;
local64_set(&hwc->period_left, hwc->sample_period);
In the case of *riscv_base_pmu*, only (3) is provided for now.
3. Interrupt
3.1. Interrupt Initialization
This often occurs at the beginning of the *event_init* method. In common
practice, this should be a code segment like::
int x86_reserve_hardware(void)
int err = 0;
if (!atomic_inc_not_zero(&pmc_refcount)) {
if (atomic_read(&pmc_refcount) == 0) {
if (!reserve_pmc_hardware())
err = -EBUSY;
if (!err)
return err;
And the magic is in *reserve_pmc_hardware*, which usually does atomic
operations to make implemented IRQ accessible from some global function pointer.
*release_pmc_hardware* serves the opposite purpose, and it is used in event
destructors mentioned in previous section.
(Note: From the implementations in all the architectures, the *reserve/release*
pair are always IRQ settings, so the *pmc_hardware* seems somehow misleading.
It does NOT deal with the binding between an event and a physical counter,
which will be introduced in the next section.)
3.2. IRQ Structure
Basically, a IRQ runs the following pseudo code::
for each hardware counter that triggered this overflow
get the event of this counter
// following two steps are defined as *read()*,
// check the section Reading/Writing Counters for details.
count the delta value since previous interrupt
update the event->count (# event occurs) by adding delta, and
event->hw.period_left by subtracting delta
if the event overflows
sample data
set the counter appropriately for the next overflow
if the event overflows again
too frequently, throttle this event
end for
However as of this writing, none of the RISC-V implementations have designed an
interrupt for perf, so the details are to be completed in the future.
4. Reading/Writing Counters
They seem symmetric but perf treats them quite differently. For reading, there
is a *read* interface in *struct pmu*, but it serves more than just reading.
According to the context, the *read* function not only reads the content of the
counter (event->count), but also updates the left period to the next interrupt
But the core of perf does not need direct write to counters. Writing counters
is hidden behind the abstraction of 1) *pmu->start*, literally start counting so one
has to set the counter to a good value for the next interrupt; 2) inside the IRQ
it should set the counter to the same resonable value.
Reading is not a problem in RISC-V but writing would need some effort, since
counters are not allowed to be written by S-mode.
5. add()/del()/start()/stop()
Basic idea: add()/del() adds/deletes events to/from a PMU, and start()/stop()
starts/stop the counter of some event in the PMU. All of them take the same
arguments: *struct perf_event *event* and *int flag*.
Consider perf as a state machine, then you will find that these functions serve
as the state transition process between those states.
Three states (event->hw.state) are defined:
* PERF_HES_STOPPED: the counter is stopped
* PERF_HES_UPTODATE: the event->count is up-to-date
* PERF_HES_ARCH: arch-dependent usage ... we don't need this for now
A normal flow of these state transitions are as follows:
* A user launches a perf event, resulting in calling to *event_init*.
* When being context-switched in, *add* is called by the perf core, with a flag
PERF_EF_START, which means that the event should be started after it is added.
At this stage, a general event is bound to a physical counter, if any.
The state changes to PERF_HES_STOPPED and PERF_HES_UPTODATE, because it is now
stopped, and the (software) event count does not need updating.
- *start* is then called, and the counter is enabled.
With flag PERF_EF_RELOAD, it writes an appropriate value to the counter (check
previous section for detail).
Nothing is written if the flag does not contain PERF_EF_RELOAD.
The state now is reset to none, because it is neither stopped nor updated
(the counting already started)
* When being context-switched out, *del* is called. It then checks out all the
events in the PMU and calls *stop* to update their counts.
- *stop* is called by *del*
and the perf core with flag PERF_EF_UPDATE, and it often shares the same
subroutine as *read* with the same logic.
The state changes to PERF_HES_STOPPED and PERF_HES_UPTODATE, again.
- Life cycle of these two pairs: *add* and *del* are called repeatedly as
tasks switch in-and-out; *start* and *stop* is also called when the perf core
needs a quick stop-and-start, for instance, when the interrupt period is being
Current implementation is sufficient for now and can be easily extended to
features in the future.
A. Related Structures
* struct pmu: include/linux/perf_event.h
* struct riscv_pmu: arch/riscv/include/asm/perf_event.h
Both structures are designed to be read-only.
*struct pmu* defines some function pointer interfaces, and most of them take
*struct perf_event* as a main argument, dealing with perf events according to
perf's internal state machine (check kernel/events/core.c for details).
*struct riscv_pmu* defines PMU-specific parameters. The naming follows the
convention of all other architectures.
* struct perf_event: include/linux/perf_event.h
* struct hw_perf_event
The generic structure that represents perf events, and the hardware-related
* struct riscv_hw_events: arch/riscv/include/asm/perf_event.h
The structure that holds the status of events, has two fixed members:
the number of events and the array of the events.