[PATCH] ARM: document the use of NEON in kernel mode

Nicolas Pitre nicolas.pitre at linaro.org
Tue Aug 13 17:21:17 EDT 2013

On Fri, 9 Aug 2013, Ard Biesheuvel wrote:

> Signed-off-by: Ard Biesheuvel <ard.biesheuvel at linaro.org>

Reviewed-by: Nicolas Pitre <nico at linaro.org>

> ---
>  Documentation/arm/kernel_mode_neon.txt | 132 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
>  1 file changed, 132 insertions(+)
>  create mode 100644 Documentation/arm/kernel_mode_neon.txt
> diff --git a/Documentation/arm/kernel_mode_neon.txt b/Documentation/arm/kernel_mode_neon.txt
> new file mode 100644
> index 0000000..4c2de85
> --- /dev/null
> +++ b/Documentation/arm/kernel_mode_neon.txt
> @@ -0,0 +1,132 @@
> +Kernel mode NEON
> +================
> +
> +TL;DR summary
> +-------------
> +* Use only NEON instructions, or VFP instructions that don't rely on support
> +  code
> +* Isolate your NEON code in a separate compilation unit, and compile it with
> +  '-mfpu=neon -mfloat-abi=softfp'
> +* Put kernel_neon_begin() and kernel_neon_end() calls around the calls into your
> +  NEON code
> +* Don't sleep in your NEON code, and be aware that it will be executed with
> +  preemption disabled
> +
> +
> +Introduction
> +------------
> +It is possible to use NEON instructions (and in some cases, VFP instructions) in
> +code that runs in kernel mode. However, for performance reasons, the NEON/VFP
> +register file is not preserved and restored at every context switch or taken
> +exception like the normal register file is, so some manual intervention is
> +required. Furthermore, special care is required for code that may sleep [i.e.,
> +may call schedule()], as NEON or VFP instructions will be executed in a
> +non-preemptible section for reasons outlined below.
> +
> +
> +Lazy preserve and restore
> +-------------------------
> +The NEON/VFP register file is managed using lazy preserve (on UP systems) and
> +lazy restore (on both SMP and UP systems). This means that the register file is
> +kept 'live', and is only preserved and restored when multiple tasks are
> +contending for the NEON/VFP unit (or, in the SMP case, when a task migrates to
> +another core). Lazy restore is implemented by disabling the NEON/VFP unit after
> +every context switch, resulting in a trap when subsequently a NEON/VFP
> +instruction is issued, allowing the kernel to step in and perform the restore if
> +necessary.
> +
> +Any use of the NEON/VFP unit in kernel mode should not interfere with this, so
> +it is required to do an 'eager' preserve of the NEON/VFP register file, and
> +enable the NEON/VFP unit explicitly so no exceptions are generated on first
> +subsequent use. This is handled by the function kernel_neon_begin(), which
> +should be called before any kernel mode NEON or VFP instructions are issued.
> +Likewise, the NEON/VFP unit should be disabled again after use to make sure user
> +mode will hit the lazy restore trap upon next use. This is handled by the
> +function kernel_neon_end().
> +
> +
> +Interruptions in kernel mode
> +----------------------------
> +For reasons of performance and simplicity, it was decided that there shall be no
> +preserve/restore mechanism for the kernel mode NEON/VFP register contents. This
> +implies that interruptions of a kernel mode NEON section can only be allowed if
> +they are guaranteed not to touch the NEON/VFP registers. For this reason, the
> +following rules and restrictions apply in the kernel:
> +* NEON/VFP code is not allowed in interrupt context;
> +* NEON/VFP code is not allowed to sleep;
> +* NEON/VFP code is executed with preemption disabled.
> +
> +If latency is a concern, it is possible to put back to back calls to
> +kernel_neon_end() and kernel_neon_begin() in places in your code where none of
> +the NEON registers are live. (Additional calls to kernel_neon_begin() should be
> +reasonably cheap if no context switch occurred in the meantime)
> +
> +
> +VFP and support code
> +--------------------
> +Earlier versions of VFP (prior to version 3) rely on software support for things
> +like IEEE-754 compliant underflow handling etc. When the VFP unit needs such
> +software assistance, it signals the kernel by raising an undefined instruction
> +exception. The kernel responds by inspecting the VFP control registers and the
> +current instruction and arguments, and emulates the instruction in software.
> +
> +Such software assistance is currently not implemented for VFP instructions
> +executed in kernel mode. If such a condition is encountered, the kernel will
> +fail and generate an OOPS.
> +
> +
> +Separating NEON code from ordinary code
> +---------------------------------------
> +The compiler is not aware of the special significance of kernel_neon_begin() and
> +kernel_neon_end(), i.e., that it is only allowed to issue NEON/VFP instructions
> +between calls to these respective functions. Furthermore, GCC may generate NEON
> +instructions of its own at -O3 level if -mfpu=neon is selected, and even if the
> +kernel is currently compiled at -O2, future changes may result in NEON/VFP
> +instructions appearing in unexpected places if no special care is taken.
> +
> +Therefore, the recommended and only supported way of using NEON/VFP in the
> +kernel is by adhering to the following rules:
> +* isolate the NEON code in a separate compilation unit and compile it with
> +  '-mfpu=neon -mfloat-abi=softfp';
> +* issue the calls to kernel_neon_begin(), kernel_neon_end() as well as the calls
> +  into the unit containing the NEON code from a compilation unit which is *not*
> +  built with the GCC flag '-mfpu=neon' set.
> +
> +As the kernel is compiled with '-msoft-float', the above will guarantee that
> +both NEON and VFP instructions will only ever appear in designated compilation
> +units at any optimization level.
> +
> +
> +NEON assembler
> +--------------
> +NEON assembler is supported with no additional caveats as long as the rules
> +above are followed.
> +
> +
> +NEON code generated by GCC
> +--------------------------
> +The GCC option -ftree-vectorize (implied by -O3) tries to exploit implicit
> +parallelism, and generates NEON code from ordinary C source code. This is fully
> +supported as long as the rules above are followed.
> +
> +
> +NEON intrinsics
> +---------------
> +NEON intrinsics are also supported. However, as code using NEON intrinsics
> +relies on the GCC header 'arm_neon.h', the following tricks are necessary as
> +this header is not fully compatible with the kernel:
> +* Declare the interface between the NEON intrinsics code and its caller using
> +  only plain old C types (i.e., avoid using uintXX_t and uXX types; they seem
> +  unambiguous but they are not[1]);
> +* Compile the unit containing the NEON intrinsics with '-ffreestanding' so it
> +  does not choke on the missing 'stdint.h' #included by 'arm_neon.h' (this is a
> +  C99 header which the kernel does not supply) and don't include any ordinary
> +  kernel headers;
> +* Call the NEON code from a separate compilation unit that does the interfacing
> +  with the rest of the kernel, includes kernel headers, types etc.
> +
> +----
> +[1] Neither the bare metal version nor the glibc version of GCC agrees with the
> +    kernel on the definitions of int32_t, uint32_t and/or uintptr_t: this
> +    becomes a problem when you try to include both <linux/types.h> and
> +    <stdint.h> in the same compilation unit.
> -- 
> _______________________________________________
> linux-arm-kernel mailing list
> linux-arm-kernel at lists.infradead.org
> http://lists.infradead.org/mailman/listinfo/linux-arm-kernel

More information about the linux-arm-kernel mailing list