• Speaker: Marcelo Martins
  • Date: April 5th, 2011 (Tuesday)
  • Room: CIT 506
  • Paper: Livio Soares, Michael Stummm. "FlexSC: Flexible System Call Scheduling with Exception-Less System Calls" [pdf] [slides]
  • Venue: USENIX OSDI 2010
  • Abstract:
For the past 30+ years, system calls have been the de facto interface used by applications to request services from the operating system kernel. System calls have almost universally been implemented as a synchronous mechanism, where a special processor instruction is used to yield userspace execution to the kernel. In the first part of this paper, we evaluate the performance impact of traditional synchronous system calls on system intensive workloads. We show that synchronous system calls negatively affect performance in a significant way, primarily because of pipeline flushing and pollution of key processor structures (e.g., TLB, data and instruction caches, etc.). We propose a new mechanism for applications to request services from the operating system kernel: exception-less system calls. They improve processor efficiency by enabling flexibility in the scheduling of operating system work, which in turn can lead to significantly increased temporal and spacial locality of execution in both user and kernel space, thus reducing pollution effects on processor structures. Exception-less system calls are particularly effective on multicore processors. They primarily target highly threaded server applications, such as Web servers and database servers. We present FlexSC, an implementation of exceptionless system calls in the Linux kernel, and an accompanying user-mode thread package (FlexSC-Threads), binary compatible with POSIX threads, that translates legacy synchronous system calls into exception-less ones transparently to applications. We show how FlexSC improves performance of Apache by up to 116%, MySQL by up to 40%, and BIND by up to 105% while requiring no modifications to the applications.