Technical Report 2012-030

A Profiling Method for Analyzing Scalability Bottlenecks on Multicores

David Eklöv, Nikos Nikoleris, and Erik Hagersten

October 2012


A key goodness metric of multi-threaded programs is how their execution times scale when increasing the number of threads. However, there are several bottlenecks that can limit the scalability of a multi-threaded program, e.g., contention for shared cache capacity and off-chip memory bandwidth; and synchronization overheads. In order to improve the scalability of a multi-threaded program, it is vital to be able to quantify how the program is impacted by these scalability bottlenecks.

We present a software-only profiling method for obtaining it speedup stacks. A speedup stack reports how much each scalability bottleneck limits the scalability of a multi-threaded program. It thereby quantifies how much its scalability can be improved by eliminating a given bottleneck. A software developer can use this information to determine what optimizations are most likely to improve scalability, while a computer architect can use it to analyze the resource demands of emerging workloads.

The proposed method profiles the program on real commodity multi-cores (i.e., no simulations required) using existing performance counters. Consequently, the obtained speedup stacks accurately account for all idiosyncrasies of the machine on which the program is profiled. While the main contribution of this paper is the profiling method to obtain speedup stacks, we present several examples of how speedup stacks can be used to analyze the resource requirements of multi-threaded programs. Furthermore, we discuss how their scalability can be improved by both software developers and computer architects.

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