dma_sync_single_for_cpu takes a really long time

Russell King - ARM Linux linux at
Sun Jun 28 15:30:40 PDT 2015

On Sun, Jun 28, 2015 at 10:40:03PM +0200, Sylvain Munaut wrote:
> I'm working on a DMA driver that uses the the streaming DMA API to
> synchronize the access between host and device. The data flow is
> exclusively from the device to the host (video grabber).
> As such, I call dma_sync_single_for_cpu when the hardware is done
> writing a frame to make sure that the cpu gets up to date data when
> accessing the zone.
> However this call takes a _long_ time to complete. For a 6 Megabytes
> buffer, it takes about 13 ms which is just crazy ... at that rate it'd
> be faster to just read random data from a random buffer to trash the
> measly 512k of cache ...

Flushing a large chunk of memory one cache line at a time takes a long
time, there's really nothing "new" about that.

It's the expense that has to be paid for using cacheable mappings on a
CPU which is not DMA coherent - something which I've brought up over
the years with ARM, but it's not something that ARM believe is wanted
by their silicon partners.

What we _could_ do is decide that if the buffer is larger than some
factor of the cache size, to just flush the entire cache.  However, that
penalises the case where none of the data is in the cache - and in all
probably  very little of the frame is actually sitting in the cache at
that moment.

However, if you're going to read the entire frame through a cacheable
mapping, you're probably going to end up flushing your cache several
times over through doing that - but that's probably something you're
doing in userspace, and so the kernel doesn't have the knowledge to know
that's what userspace will be doing (nor should it.)

There isn't a trivial solution to this problem, and I wish that ARM had
solved this issue by becoming a DMA-coherent architecture.

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