Friday Apr 20, 2012

What is -xcode=abs44?

I've talked about building 64-bit libraries with position independent code. When building 64-bit applications there are two options for the code that the compiler generates: -xcode=abs64 or -xcode=abs44, the default is -xcode=abs44. These are documented in the user guides. The abs44 and abs64 options produce 64-bit applications that constrain the code + data + BSS to either 44 bit or 64 bits of address.

These options constrain the addresses statically encoded in the application to either 44 or 64 bits. It does not restrict the address range for pointers (dynamically allocated memory) - they remain 64-bits. The restriction is in locating the address of a routine or a variable within the executable.

This is easier to understand from the perspective of an example. Suppose we have a variable "data" that we want to return the address of. Here's the code to do such a thing:

extern int data;

int * address()
  return &data;

If we compile this as a 32-bit app we get the following disassembly:

/* 000000          4 */         sethi   %hi(data),%o5
/* 0x0004            */         retl    ! Result =  %o0
/* 0x0008            */         add     %o5,%lo(data),%o0

So it takes two instructions to generate the address of the variable "data". At link time the linker will go through the code, locate references to the variable "data" and replace them with the actual address of the variable, so these two instructions will get modified. If we compile this as a 64-bit code with full 64-bit address generation (-xcode=abs64) we get the following:

/* 000000          4 */         sethi   %hh(data),%o5
/* 0x0004            */         sethi   %lm(data),%o2
/* 0x0008            */         or      %o5,%hm(data),%o4
/* 0x000c            */         sllx    %o4,32,%o3
/* 0x0010            */         or      %o3,%o2,%o1
/* 0x0014            */         retl    ! Result =  %o0
/* 0x0018            */         add     %o1,%lo(data),%o0

So to do the same thing for a 64-bit application with full 64-bit address generation takes 6 instructions. Now, most hardware cannot address the full 64-bits, hardware typically can address somewhere around 40+ bits of address (example). So being able to generate a full 64-bit address is currently unnecessary. This is where abs44 comes in. A 44 bit address can be generated in four instructions, so slightly cuts the instruction count without practically compromising the range of memory that an application can address:

/* 000000          4 */         sethi   %h44(data),%o5
/* 0x0004            */         or      %o5,%m44(data),%o4
/* 0x0008            */         sllx    %o4,12,%o3
/* 0x000c            */         retl    ! Result =  %o0
/* 0x0010            */         add     %o3,%l44(data),%o0

Tuesday Apr 05, 2011

Porting from 32-bits to 64-bits

Article on porting from 32-bit to 64-bit just posted up on OTN. It's well worth a read as it covers all those corner cases which could result in errors in the 64-bit version.

Friday Mar 14, 2008

32-bits good, 64-bits better?

One of the questions people ask is when to develop 64-bit apps vs 32-bit apps. The answer is not totally clear cut, it depends on the application and the platform. So here's my take on it.

First, let's discuss SPARC. The SPARC V8 architecture defines the 32-bit SPARC ISA (Instruction Set Architecture). This was found on a selection of SPARC processors that appeared before the UltraSPARC I, ie quite a long time ago. Later the SPARC V9 architecture appeared. (As an aside, these are open standards, so anyone can download the specs and make one, of course not everyone has the time and resources to do that, but it's nice in theory ;)

The SPARC V9 architecture added a few instructions, but mainly added the capability to use 64-bit addressing. The ABI (Application Binary Interface) was also improved (floating point values passed in FP registers rather than the odd V8 choice of using the integer registers). The UltraSPARC I and onwards have implemented the V9 architecture, which means that they can execute both V8 and V9 binaries.

One of the things that it's easy to get taken in by is the animal farm idea that if 32-bits is good 64-bits must be better. The trouble with 64-bit address space is that it takes more instructions to set up an address, pointers go from 4 bytes to 8 bytes, and the memory footprint of the application increases.

A hybrid mode was also defined, which took the 32-bit address space, together with a selection of the new instructions. This was called v8plus, or more recently sparcvis. This has been the default architecture for SPARC binaries for quite a while now, and it combines the smaller memory footprint of SPARC V8 with the more recent instructions from SPARC V9. For applications that don't require 64-bit address space, v8plus or sparcvis is the way to go.

Moving to the x86 side things are slightly more complex. The high level view is similar. You have the x86 ISA, or IA32 as its been called. Then you have the 64-bit ISA, called AMD64 or EMT64. EMT64 gives you both 64-bit addressing, a new ABI, a number of new instructions, and perhaps most importantly a bundle of new registers. The x86 has impressively few registers, EMT64 fixes that quite nicely.

In the same way as SPARC, moving to a 64-bit address space does cost some performance due to the increased memory footprint. However, the x64 gains a number of additional registers, which usually more than make up for this loss in performance. So the general rule is that 64-bits is better, unless the application makes extensive use of pointers.

Unlike SPARC, EMT64 does not currently provide a mode which gives the instruction set extensions and registers with a 32-bit address space.


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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