authors: Thomas E. Hansen

ARM DVFS modelling

Like most modern CPUs, ARM CPUs support DVFS. It is possible to model this and, for example, monitor the resulting power usage in gem5. DVFS modelling is done through the use of two components of Clocked Objects: Voltage Domains and Clock Domains. This chapter details the different components and shows different ways to add them to an existing simulation.

Voltage Domains

Voltage Domains dictate the voltage values the CPUs can use. If no VD is specified when running a Full System simulation in gem5, a default value of 1.0 Volts is used. This is to avoid forcing users to consider voltage when they are not interested in simulating this.

Voltage Domains can be constructed from either a single value or a list of values, passed to the VoltageDomain constructor using the voltage kwarg. If a single value and multiple frequencies are specified, the voltage is used for all the frequencies in the Clock Domain. If a list of voltage values is specified, its number of entries must match the number of entries in the corresponding Clock Domain and the entries must be arranged in descending order. As with real hardware, a Voltage Domain applies to the entire processor socket. This means that if you want to have different VDs for the different processors (e.g. for a big.LITTLE setup) you need to make sure the big and the LITTLE cluster are on different sockets (check the socket_id value associated with the clusters).

There are 2 ways to add a VD to an existing CPU/simulation, one is more flexible, the other is more straightforward. The first method adds command-line flags to the provided configs/example/arm/fs_bigLITTLE.py file, while the second method adds custom classes.

  1. The most flexible way to add Voltage Domains to a simulation is to use command-line flags. To add a command-line flag, find the addOptions function in the file and add the flag there, optionally with some help text.
    An example supporting both a single and multiple voltages:

    def addOptions(parser):
        [...]
        parser.add_argument("--big-cpu-voltage", nargs="+", default="1.0V",
                            help="Big CPU voltage(s).")
        return parser
    

    The voltage domain value(s) could then be specified with

    --big-cpu-voltage <val1>V [<val2>V [<val3>V [...]]]
    

    This would then be accessed in the build function using options.big_cpu_voltage. The nargs="+" ensures that at least one argument is required. Example usage in build:

    def build(options):
        [...]
        # big cluster
        if options.big_cpus > 0:
            system.bigCluster = big_model(system, options.big_cpus,
                                          options.big_cpu_clock,
                                          options.big_cpu_voltage)
        [...]
    

    A similar flag and additions to the build function could be added to support specifying voltage values for the LITTLE CPU. This approach allows for very easy specification and modification of the voltages. The only downside to this method is that the multiple command line arguments, some being in list form, could clutter up the command used to invoke the simulator.

  2. The less flexible way to specify Voltage Domains is by creating sub-classes of the CpuCluster. Similar to the existing BigCluster and LittleCluster sub-classes, these will extend the CpuCluster class. In the constructor of the subclass, in addition to specifying a CPU-type, we also define a lists of values for the Voltage Domain and pass this to the call to the super constructor using the kwarg cpu_voltage. Here is an example, for adding voltage to a BigCluster:

    class VDBigCluster(devices.CpuCluster):
        def __init__(self, system, num_cpus, cpu_clock=None, cpu_voltage=None):
            # use the same CPU as the stock BigCluster
            abstract_cpu = ObjectList.cpu_list.get("O3_ARM_v7a_3")
            # voltage value(s)
            my_voltages = [ '1.0V', '0.75V', '0.51V']
    
            super(VDBigCluster, self).__init__(
                cpu_voltage=my_voltages,
                system=system,
                num_cpus=num_cpus,
                cpu_type=abstract_cpu,
                l1i_type=devices.L1I,
                l1d_type=devices.L1D,
                wcache_type=devices.WalkCache,
                l2_type=devices.L2
            )
    

    Adding voltages to the LittleCluster could then be done by defining a similar VDLittleCluster class.

    With the subclass(es) defined, we still need to add an entry to the cpu_types dictionary in the file, specifying a string name as the key and a pair of classes as the value, e.g:

    cpu_types = {
        [...]
        "vd-timing" : (VDBigCluster, VDLittleCluster)
    }
    

    The CPUs with VDs could then be used by passing

    --cpu-type vd-timing
    

    to the command invoking the simulation.

    Since any modifications to the voltage values have to be done by finding the right subclass and modifying its code, or adding more subclasses and cpu_types entries, this approach is a lot less flexible than the flag-based approach.

Clock Domains

Voltage Domains are used in conjunction with Clock Domains. As previously mentioned, if no custom voltage values have been specified, a default value of 1.0V is used for all values in the Clock Domain.

Types of Clock Domain In contrast to Voltage Domains, there are 3 types of Clock Domains (from src/sim/clock_domain.hh):

Adding Clock Domains to an existing simulation

This example will use the same provided files as the VD examples, i.e. configs/example/arm/fs_bigLITTLE.py and configs/example/arm/devices.py.

Like VDs, CDs can be a single value or a list of values. If a list of clock speeds is given, the same rules apply as for a list of voltages given to a VD, i.e. the number of values in the CD must match the number of values in the VD; and the clock speeds must be given in descending order. The provided files come with support for specifying the clock as a single value (through the --{big,little}-cpu-clock flags), but not as a list of values. Extending/Modifying the behaviour of the provided flags is the simplest and most flexible way to add support for multi-value CDs, but it is also possible to do it by adding subclasses.

  1. To add multi-value support to the existing --{big,little}-cpu-clock flags, locate the addOptions function in the configs/example/arm/fs_bigLITTLE.py file. Amongst the various parser.add_argument calls, find the ones that add the CPU-clock flags and replace the kwarg type=str with nargs="+":
    def addOptions(parser):
        [...]
        parser.add_argument("--big-cpu-clock", nargs="+", default="2GHz",
                            help="Big CPU clock frequency.")
        parser.add_argument("--little-cpu-clock", nargs="+", default="1GHz",
                            help="Little CPU clock frequency.")
        [...]
    

    With this, multiple frequencies can be specified similarly to the flag used for VDs:

    --{big,little}-cpu-clock <val1>GHz [<val2>MHz [<val3>MHz [...]]]
    

    Since this modifies existing flags, the flags’ values are already wired up to the relevant constructors and kwargs in the build function, so there is nothing to be modified there.

  2. To add CDs in a subclass, the process is very similar to the process of adding VDs as a subclass. The difference is that instead of specifying voltages and using the cpu_voltage kwarg, we specify clock values and use the cpu_clock kwarg in the super call:
    class CDBigCluster(devices.CpuCluster):
        def __init__(self, system, num_cpus, cpu_clock=None, cpu_voltage=None):
            # use the same CPU as the stock BigCluster
            abstract_cpu = ObjectList.cpu_list.get("O3_ARM_v7a_3")
            # clock value(s)
            my_freqs = [ '1510MHz', '1000MHz', '667MHz']
    
            super(VDBigCluster, self).__init__(
                cpu_clock=my_freqs,
                system=system,
                num_cpus=num_cpus,
                cpu_type=abstract_cpu,
                l1i_type=devices.L1I,
                l1d_type=devices.L1D,
                wcache_type=devices.WalkCache,
                l2_type=devices.L2
            )
    

    This could be combined with the VD example so as to specify both VDs and CDs for the cluster.

    As with adding VDs using this approach, you would need to define a class for each of the CPU-types you wanted to use and specify their name-cpuPair value in the cpu_types dictionary. This method also has the same limitations and is a lot less flexible than the flag-based approach.

Making sure CDs have a valid DomainID

Regardless of which of the previous methods are used, there are some additional modifications required. These concern the provided configs/example/arm/devices.py file.

In the file, locate the CpuClusters class and find the place where self.clk_domain is initialised to a SrcClockDomain. As noted in the comment concerning SrcClockDomain above, these have a Domain ID. If this is not set, as is the case in the provided setup, then the default ID of -1 will be used. Instead of this, change the code to make sure the Domain ID is set:

[...]
self.clk_domain = SrcClockDomain(clock=cpu_clock,
                                 voltage_domain=self.voltage_domain,
                                 domain_id=system.numCpuClusters())
[...]

The system.numCpuClusters() is used here since the CD applies to the entire cluster, i.e. it will be 0 for the first cluster, 1 for the second cluster, etc.

If you don’t set the Domain ID, you will get the following error when trying to run a DVFS-capable simulation as some internal checks catch the default Domain ID:

fatal: fatal condition domain_id == SrcClockDomain::emptyDomainID occurred:
DVFS: Controlled domain system.bigCluster.clk_domain needs to have a properly
assigned ID.

The DVFS Handler

If you specify VDs and CDs and then try to run your simulation, it will most likely run, but you might notice the following warning in the output:

warn: Existing EnergyCtrl, but no enabled DVFSHandler found.

The VDs and CDs have been added, but there is no DVFSHandler which the system can interface with to adjust the values. The simplest way to fix this is to add another command-line flag, in the configs/example/arm/fs_bigLITTLE.py file.

As in the VD and CD examples, locate the addOptions function and append the following code to it:

def addOptions(parser):
    [...]
    parser.add_argument("--dvfs", action="store_true",
                        help="Enable the DVFS Handler.")
    return parser

Then, locate the build function and append this code to it:

def build(options):
    [...]
    if options.dvfs:
        system.dvfs_handler.domains = [system.bigCluster.clk_domain,
                                       system.littleCluster.clk_domain]
        system.dvfs_handler.enable = options.dvfs

    return root

With this in place, you should now be able to run a DVFS-capable simulation by using the --dvfs flag when invoking the simulation, with the option to specify the voltage and frequency operating points of both the big and the LITTLE cluster as necessary.