ARM and IBM Power Concurrency

On-line Models

(see the publications below for more information about the models)


[-] Kathryn E. Gray, Gabriel Kerneis, Dominic P. Mulligan, Christopher Pulte, Susmit Sarkar, and Peter Sewell. An integrated concurrency and core-ISA architectural envelope definition, and test oracle, for IBM POWER multiprocessors. In MICRO 2015: Proceedings of the 48th International Symposium on Microarchitecture, , Waikiki, HI, USA, pages 635-646, 2015. [ bib | DOI | http | .pdf ]
Weakly consistent multiprocessors such as ARM and IBM POWER have been with us for decades, but their subtle programmer-visible concurrency behaviour remains challenging, both to implement and to use; the traditional architecture documentation, with its mix of prose and pseudocode, leaves much unclear.

In this paper we show how a precise architectural envelope model for such architectures can be defined, taking IBM POWER as our example. Our model specifies, for an arbitrary test program, the set of all its allowable executions, not just those of some particular implementation. The model integrates an operational concurrency model with an ISA model for the fixed-point non-vector user-mode instruction set (largely automatically derived from the vendor pseudocode, and expressed in a new ISA description language). The key question is the interface between these two: allowing all the required concurrency behaviour, without overcommitting to some particular microarchitectural implementation, requires a novel abstract structure.

Our model is expressed in a mathematically rigorous language that can be automatically translated to an executable test-oracle tool; this lets one either interactively explore or exhaustively compute the set of all allowed behaviours of intricate test cases, to provide a reference for hardware and software development.

[-] Shaked Flur, Kathryn E. Gray, Christopher Pulte, Susmit Sarkar, Ali Sezgin, Luc Maranget, Will Deacon, and Peter Sewell. Modelling the ARMv8 architecture, operationally: concurrency and ISA. In POPL 2016: Proceedings of the 43rd Annual ACM SIGPLAN-SIGACT Symposium on Principles of Programming Languages, St. Petersburg, FL, USA, pages 608-621, 2016. [ bib | DOI | http | .pdf ]

In this paper we develop semantics for key aspects of the ARMv8 multiprocessor architecture: the concurrency model and much of the 64-bit application-level instruction set (ISA). Our goal is to clarify what the range of architecturally allowable behaviour is, and thereby to support future work on formal verification, analysis, and testing of concurrent ARM software and hardware.

Establishing such models with high confidence is intrinsically difficult: it involves capturing the vendor's architectural intent, aspects of which (especially for concurrency) have not previously been precisely defined. We therefore first develop a concurrency model with a microarchitectural flavour, abstracting from many hardware implementation concerns but still close to hardware-designer intuition. This means it can be discussed in detail with ARM architects. We then develop a more abstract model, better suited for use as an architectural specification, which we prove sound w.r.t. the first.

The instruction semantics involves further difficulties, handling the mass of detail and the subtle intensional information required to interface to the concurrency model. We have a novel ISA description language, with a lightweight dependent type system, letting us do both with a rather direct representation of the ARM reference manual instruction descriptions.

We build a tool from the combined semantics that lets one explore, either interactively or exhaustively, the full range of architecturally allowed behaviour, for litmus tests and (small) ELF executables. We prove correctness of some optimisations needed for tool performance.

We validate the models by discussion with ARM staff, and by comparison against ARM hardware behaviour, for ISA single-instruction tests and concurrent litmus tests.

These build on our earlier work on Relaxed-Memory Concurrency, especially:



This work is funded by REMS: Rigorous Engineering for Mainstream Systems and by an EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account Knowledge Transfer Fellowship (with ARM).