Subject: Software coherency on low-end SGI R10000 platforms
To: None <>
From: Jeff Smith <>
List: port-sgimips
Date: 06/29/2000 10:59:43
Soren and I had discussed this a bit, and I promised
to get back to him on how IO coherency works on the
desktop SGI systems.  I think this is interesting
to the broader group and should be archived so I'm
sending it to port-sgimips.

The issue is the R10000 speculatively executes
loads and stores.  On the Indigo2 flavor this
was originally attacked by adding extra cache
operations on DMAed IO.  It was later found that
store operations could be speculatively issued
and would mark the target cache line dirty in
the primary cache, even if that store was never
to be executed.  This can happen due to a
mis-predicted branch.

All is well with coherent IO systems.  On non coherent
systems like Indigo2 and O2 this creates a race
condition with DMA reads (IO->mem) where a stale
cached data can be written back over the DMAed data.

R10K Indigo2:

This issue was figured out late the the R10K I2
design cycle.  The problem was fixed by modifying
the compiler and assembler to issue a cache barrier
instruction to address 0(sp) as the first instruction
in basic blocks that contain stores to registers
other than $0 and $sp.

noreorder assembly code is required to be done by
hand as the compiler/assembler cannot assume $sp
is valid, and many of these cases cannot hit the

A small number of leaf routines like bcopy, bzero
and copyout were also modified for better performance.

Speculative reads are handled with an extra cache
invalidation after DMA reads.

This really only affects the kernel.  User mode
binaries run unchanged with some restrictions on
direct IO.

R10K O2:

This machine took a different approach given
it had more time to react to the problem and
because it runs a 32b kernel.

The agent chip does not allow K0 access above
8MB.  They do this by having the kernel map
everything else in K2 and use a different cache
mode the K0 is set to.  I do not recall the
specifics of which mode was used.

The kernel then maps all DMA buffers in K2, and
purges the mapping from the tlb while DMAs are
in flight.   Because you cannot get to this page
via K0 or K2 (speculation will not miss the tlb
if I recall correctly), the DMA operation is safe.

Note that all DMA buffers must be above 8MB.  I
think this bar was 8MB, it could be 4MB.

This scheme played a lot of havoc on the drivers
in IRIX.  The bus_* interfaces may provide enough
of an abstraction to allow drivers to work easily.

The kernel must also not assume it can use K0
on addresses above the DMA bar.  That will usually
hit you a few places.

I hope this helps any NetBSD work that's done for
these platforms.