Chapter 6. Affinity

Each thread and interrupt source in the system has a processor affinity property. The operating system scheduler uses this information to determine which threads and interrupts to run on which CPU.
Setting processor affinity, along with effective policy and priority settings, can help to achieve the maximum possible performance. Applications will always need to compete for resources, especially CPU time, with other processes. Depending on the application, related threads are often run on the same core. Alternatively, one application thread can be allocated to one core.
Systems that perform multitasking are naturally more prone to indeterminism. Even high priority applications may be delayed from executing while a lower priority application is in a critical section of code. Once the low priority application has exited the critical section, the kernel may safely preempt the low priority application and schedule the high priority application on the processor. Additionally, migrating processes from one CPU to another can be costly due to cache invalidation. Red Hat Enterprise Linux for Real Time includes tools that address some of these issues and allow latencies to be better controlled.
Affinity is represented as a bitmask, where each bit in the mask represents a CPU core. If the bit is set to 1, then the thread or interrupt may run on that core; if 0 then the thread or interrupt is excluded from running on the core. The default value for an affinity bitmask is all ones, meaning the thread or interrupt may run on any core in the system.
By default, processes can run on any CPU. However, processes can be instructed to run on a predetermined selection of CPUs, by changing the affinity of the process. Child processes inherent the CPU affinities of their parents.
Some of the more typical affinity setups include:
  • Reserve one CPU core for all system processes and allow the application to run on the remainder of the cores.
  • Allow a thread application and a given kernel thread (such as the network softirq or a driver thread) on the same CPU.
  • Pair producer and consumer threads on each CPU.
It is recommended that affinity settings are designed in conjunction with the program, to better match the expected behavior.
The usual practice for tuning affinities on a realtime system is to determine how many cores are needed to run the application and then isolate those cores. This can be achieved using the Tuna tool, or through the use of shell scripts to modify the bitmask value. The taskset command can be used to change the affinity of a process, while modifying the /proc filesystem entry changes the affinity of an interrupt.


For more information, or for further reading, the taskset(1) man page is related to the information given in this section.

6.1. Using the taskset Command to Set Processor Affinity

The taskset command sets and checks affinity information for a given process. These tasks can also be achieved using the Tuna tool.
Use the taskset command with the -p or --pid option and the PID of the process to be checked. The -c or --cpu-list option displays the information as a numerical list of cores, instead of as a bitmask.
The following command checks the affinity of the process with PID 1000. In this case, PID 1000 is permitted to use either CPU 0 or CPU 1:
~]# taskset -p -c 1000
pid 1000's current affinity list: 0,1
The affinity can be set by specifying the number of the CPU to which to bind the process. In this example, PID 1000 could previously run on either CPU 0 or CPU 1, and the affinity has been changed so that it can only run on CPU 1:
~]# taskset -p -c 1 1000
pid 1000's current affinity list: 0,1
pid 1000's new affinity list: 1
To define more than one CPU affinity, list both CPU numbers, separated by a comma:
~]# taskset -p -c 0,1 1000
pid 1000's current affinity list: 1
pid 1000's new affinity list: 0,1
The taskset command can also be used to start a new process with a particular affinity. This command will run the /bin/my-app application on CPU 4:
~]# taskset -c 4 /bin/my-app
For further granularity, the priority and policy can also be set. This command runs the /bin/my-app application on CPU 4, with a SCHED_FIFO policy and a priority of 78:
~]# taskset -c 5 chrt -f 78 /bin/my-app