Things you definitely want to know

Generic issues

isolcpus is our friend too

Isolating some CPUs on the kernel command line using the isolcpus= option, in order to prevent the load balancer from offloading in-band work to them is not only a good idea with PREEMPT_RT, but for any dual kernel configuration too.

By doing so, having some random in-band work evicting cache lines on a CPU where real-time threads briefly sleep is less likely, increasing the odds of costly cache misses, which translates positively into the latency numbers you can get. Even if EVL’s small footprint core has a limited exposure to such kind of disturbance, saving a handful of microseconds is worth it when the worst case figure is already within tenths of microseconds.

CONFIG_DEBUG_HARD_LOCKS is cool but ruins real-time guarantees

When CONFIG_DEBUG_HARD_LOCKS is enabled, the lock dependency engine (CONFIG_LOCKDEP) which helps in tracking down deadlocks and other locking-related issues is also enabled for Dovetail’s hard locks, which underpins most of the serialization mechanisms the EVL core uses.

This is nice as it has the lock validator monitor the hard spinlocks EVL uses too. However, this comes with a high price latency-wise: seeing hundreds of microseconds spent in the validator with hard interrupts off from time to time is not uncommon. Running the latency monitoring utility (aka latmus) which is part of libevl in this configuration should give you pretty ugly numbers.

In short, it is fine enabling CONFIG_DEBUG_HARD_LOCKS for debugging some locking pattern in EVL, but you won’t be able to meet real-time requirements at the same time in such configuration.

CPU frequency scaling (usually) has a negative impact on latency

Enabling the ondemand CPUFreq governor - or any governor performing dynamic adjustment of the CPU frequency - may induce significant latency for EVL on your system, from ten microseconds to more than a hundred depending on the hardware. Selecting the so-called performance governor is the safe option, which guarantees that no frequency transition ever happens, keeping the CPUs at their maximum processing speed.

In other words, if CONFIG_CPU_FREQ has to be enabled in your configuration, enabling CONFIG_CPU_FREQ_DEFAULT_GOV_PERFORMANCE and CONFIG_CPU_FREQ_GOV_PERFORMANCE exclusively is most often the best way to prevent unexpectedly high latency peaks.

Disable CONFIG_SMP for best latency on single-core systems

On single-core hardware, some out-of-line code may still be executed for dealing with various types of spinlock with a SMP build, which translates into additional CPU branches and cache misses. On low end hardware, this overhead may be noticeable.

Therefore, if you neither need SMP support nor kernel debug options which depend on instrumenting the spinlock constructs (e.g. CONFIG_DEBUG_PREEMPT), you may want to disable all the related kernel options, starting with CONFIG_SMP.

Architecture-specific issues


  • CONFIG_ACPI_PROCESSOR_IDLE may increase the latency upon wakeup on IRQ from idle on some SoC (up to 30 us observed) on x86. This option is implicitly selected by the following configuration chain: CONFIG_SCHED_MC_PRIO → CONFIG_INTEL_PSTATE → CONFIG_ACPI_PROCESSOR. If out-of-range latency figures are observed on your x86 hardware, turning off this chain may help.

  • NMI-based perf data collection may cause the kernel to execute utterly sluggish ACPI driver code at each event. Since disabling CONFIG_PERF is not an option, passing nmi_watchodg=0 on the kernel command line at boot may help.

Last modified: Thu, 05 Dec 2019 17:23:50 CET