Micro-architectural Event Tracking

Version 1.9.1 of the RISC-V Privileged Architecture adds support for Hardware Performance Monitor (HPM) counters. [1] The HPM support allows a nearly infinite number of micro-architectural events (called Hardware Performance Events (HPEs)) to be multiplexed onto up to multiple physical counters (called Hardware Performance Counters (HPCs)).

Setup HPM events to track

The available HPE’s are split into event sets and events. Event sets are groupings of similar microarchitectural events (branch prediction events, memory events, etc). To access an HPE you must choose the correct event set and event bit and write to the proper HPC register for that event. An example of event set numbers and the event bit for a particular event is given below.

Event Set # Event Bit Description
1 1 I$ Blocked
1 2 NOP
1 4 Control Flow Target Mispredict

To access an HPC, you must first set up the privilege access level of the particular HPC using mcounteren and scounteren. Afterwards, you write to the particular HPC register to setup which event(s) you want to track. Bits [7:0] of the HPC register correspond to the event set while bits [?:8] correspond to the event bitmask. Note that the bitmask can be a singular event or multiple events.

Listing 4 Enable Hardware Performance Monitor Counters
write_csr(mcounteren, -1); // Enable supervisor use of all perf counters
write_csr(scounteren, -1); // Enable user use of all perf counters

write_csr(mhpmevent3, 0x101); // read I$ Blocked event
write_csr(mhpmevent4, 0x801); // read Ctrl Flow Target Mispred. event

Reading HPM counters in software

The Code Example Listing 5 demonstrates how to read the value of any HPC from software. Note that HPCs need to be “zero’d” out by first reading the value at the beginning of the program, then reading the counter again the end, and then subtracting the initial value from the second read. However, this only applies to the HPC’s not cycle, instret, and time.

Listing 5 Read CSR Register
#define read_csr_safe(reg) ({ register long __tmp asm("a0"); \
        asm volatile ("csrr %0, " #reg : "=r"(__tmp)); \
        __tmp; })

// read cycle and instruction counts in user mode
uint64_t csr_cycle  = read_csr_safe(cycle);
uint64_t csr_instr  = read_csr_safe(instret);

// read initial value of HPMC's in user mode
uint64_t start_hpmc3  = read_csr_safe(hpmcounter3);
uint64_t start_hpmc31 = read_csr_safe(hpmcounter31);

// program to monitor

// read final value of HPMC's and substract initial in user mode
printf("Value of Event (zero'd): %d\n", read_csr_safe(hpmcounter3) - start_hpmc3);

Adding your own HPE

To add your own HPE, you modify the event set and particular event in src/main/scala/exu/core.scala. Note that the 1st item in the Seq corresponds to the first bit in the event set.

External Resources

Information in this section was adapted from https://static.dev.sifive.com/U54-MC-RVCoreIP.pdf which details more about HPE/C’s from RocketChip’s perspective. Note: The HPE’s supported by Rocket and BOOM differ, but the mechanism to access them is the same!

[1]Future efforts may add some counters into a memory-mapped access region. This will open up the ability to track events that, for example, may not be tied to any particular core (like last-level cache misses).