...for their work on "Don't shoot down TLB shootdowns!"
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Authors: Nadav Amit (VMware Research), Amy Tai (VMware Research), and Michael Wei (VMware Research)
Translation Lookaside Buffers (TLBs) are critical for building performant virtual memory systems. Because most processors do not provide coherence for TLB mappings, TLB shootdowns provide a software mechanism that invokes inter-processor interrupts (IPLs) to synchronize TLBs. TLB shootdowns are expensive, so recent work has aimed to avoid the frequency of shootdowns through techniques such as batching. We show that aggressive batching can cause correctness issues and addressing them can obviate the benefits of batching. Instead, our work takes a different approach which focuses on both improving the performance of TLB shootdowns and carefully selecting where to avoid shootdowns. We introduce four general techniques to improve shootdown performance: (1) concurrently flush initiator and remote TLBs, (2) early acknowledgement from remote cores, (3) cacheline consolidation of kernel data structures to reduce cacheline contention, and (4) in-context flushing of userspace entries to address the overheads introduced by Spectre and Meltdown mitigations. We also identify that TLB flushing can be avoiding when handling copy-on-write (CoW) faults and some TLB shootdowns can be batched in certain system calls. Overall, we show that our approach results in significant speedups without sacrificing safety and correctness in both microbenchmarks and real-world applications.