On a hyperthreaded system, top and gnome system monitor only report one processor

Scott Long scottl at samsco.org
Thu Aug 25 15:00:48 GMT 2005

Ville-Pertti Keinonen wrote:
> Jeremie Le Hen wrote:
>> It is commonly accepted that HyperThreading decreases performances
>> on FreeBSD systems.  Both 4BSD and ULE consider dual-core processors
>> as two separates processors.  This is a problem because dual-core
>> processors use the same L2 cache for their logical processors (IIRC)
>> and therefore we cannot schedule whatever threads on them without
>> taking care of not invalidating the cache too much.
> You seem to be confusing dual-core and HyperThreading.
> Dual-core (and multi-core in general) is "real" SMP; it may or may not 
> share various levels of caches (but then again, historically so can SMP 
> on machines with multiple separately packaged processors), but there are 
> definitely multiple independent CPUs.
> HyperThreading (and various non-Intel forms of SMT) doesn't just share 
> caches, but there's basically just one CPU with multiple sets of 
> registers.  Instructions from several threads can be "in flight" 
> simultaneously in the (single) execution core, in order to make better 
> use of the resources available...sometimes, for certain types of code.

Hyperthreading can often be a good thing when you are dealing with code
that is itself multithreaded and has lots of pipeline stalls.  C++ and
Java apps (being that most JVM's are written in C++ and use the native
threading of the OS) are a good example of this.  While one thread
stalls waiting for a lots of memory fetches to figure out a virtual
method dispatch, another thread can come in and do useful work.
Unfortunately, the Unix kernel does match this profile very well, nor
does a lot of traditional Unix apps that are written as discrete
process-oriented C state machines instead of monolithic threaded C++.
In Windows where all the world is MFC and .NET and whatnot, it has some
measurable gains.  Having a scheduler that aggressively optimizes for
this case is also a good thing, and indeed neither FreeBSD scheduler
does this very well, though the ULE scheduler has some foundation pieces
to possibly do it in the future.


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