An evaluation of memory consistency models for shared-memory systems with ILP processors

Vijay S. Pai, Parthasarathy Ranganathan, Sarita V. Adve, Tracy Harton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Relaxed consistency models have been shown to significantly outperform sequential consistency for single-issue, statically scheduled processors with blocking reads. However, current microprocessors aggressively exploit instruction-level parallelism (ILP) using methods such as multiple issue, dynamic scheduling, and non-blocking reads. Researchers have conjectured that two techniques, hardware-controlled nonbinding prefetching and speculative loads, have the potential to equalize the hardware performance of memory consistency models on such processors. This paper performs the first detailed quantitative comparison of several implementations of sequential consistency and release consistency optimized for aggressive ILP processors. Our results indicate that hardware prefetching and speculative loads dramatically improve the performance of sequential consistency. However, the gap between sequential consistency and release consistency depends on the cache write policy and the complexity of the cache-coherence protocol implementation. In most cases, release consistency significantly outperforms sequential consistency, but for two applications, the use of a write-back primary cache and a more complex cache-coherence protocol nearly equalizes the performance of the two models. We also observe that the existing techniques, which require on-chip hardware modifications, enhance the performance of release consistency only to a small extent. We propose two new software techniques - fuzzy acquires and selective acquires - to achieve more overlap than allowed by the previous implementations of release consistency. To enhance methods for overlapping acquires, we also propose a technique to eliminate control dependences caused by an acquire loop, using a small amount of off-chip hardware called the synchronization buffer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-23
Number of pages12
JournalOperating Systems Review (ACM)
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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