Compiling for the UltraSPARC T2

Today, Sun launched systems based on the UltraSPARC T2. A question that is bound to come up is what compiler flags should be used for the processor?

Sun Studio 12 has the flag -xtarget=ultraT2 to specifically target the UltraSPARC T2. But before jumping off and using this flag, let's take the flag apart and see what it actually means. There are three components that are set by the -xtarget flag :

  • -xcache flag. This flag tells the compiler to target a particular cache configuration. The flag will have an impact on floating point code where the loops can be tiled to fit into cache. Obviously not all codes are amenable to this optimisation, so the -xcache setting is usually unimportant.
  • -xchip flag. This sets the instruction latencies and instruction selection preferences. The UltraSPARC T2 (in common with the UltraSPARC T1) has a simple pipeline so there is nothing much to gain from accurately modelling the instruction latencies. There are also no real situations where it will do better with one instruction sequence in preference to another (unless one is longer than the other). So for the UltraSPARC T2 this flag has little impact on the generated code.
  • -xarch flag. The -xarch flag controls the target architecture. This is traditionally used principally to control whether 32-bit or 64-bit binaries are generated. However, Sun Studio 12 introduced the flags -m32 and -m64 to separate the address-size of the binary from the instruction set selection. There are no UltraSPARC T2 specific instructions which the compiler currently generates, so the default of the SPARC V9 ISA is fine.
  • To summarise, there is an UltraSPARC T2 specific compiler flag, but for most situations the best target to use would be -xtarget=generic which should give good performance over a wide range of processors.

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About

Darryl Gove is a senior engineer in the Solaris Studio team, working on optimising applications and benchmarks for current and future processors. He is also the author of the books:
Multicore Application Programming
Solaris Application Programming
The Developer's Edge
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