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SubjectRe: [RFC PATCH 0/5] x86: dynamic indirect call promotion

On Nov 28, 2018, at 6:06 PM, Nadav Amit <> wrote:

>> On Nov 28, 2018, at 5:40 PM, Andy Lutomirski <> wrote:
>>> On Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 4:38 PM Josh Poimboeuf <> wrote:
>>> On Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 07:34:52PM +0000, Nadav Amit wrote:
>>>>> On Nov 28, 2018, at 8:08 AM, Josh Poimboeuf <> wrote:
>>>>>> On Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 05:54:15PM -0700, Nadav Amit wrote:
>>>>>> This RFC introduces indirect call promotion in runtime, which for the
>>>>>> matter of simplification (and branding) will be called here "relpolines"
>>>>>> (relative call + trampoline). Relpolines are mainly intended as a way
>>>>>> of reducing retpoline overheads due to Spectre v2.
>>>>>> Unlike indirect call promotion through profile guided optimization, the
>>>>>> proposed approach does not require a profiling stage, works well with
>>>>>> modules whose address is unknown and can adapt to changing workloads.
>>>>>> The main idea is simple: for every indirect call, we inject a piece of
>>>>>> code with fast- and slow-path calls. The fast path is used if the target
>>>>>> matches the expected (hot) target. The slow-path uses a retpoline.
>>>>>> During training, the slow-path is set to call a function that saves the
>>>>>> call source and target in a hash-table and keep count for call
>>>>>> frequency. The most common target is then patched into the hot path.
>>>>>> The patching is done on-the-fly by patching the conditional branch
>>>>>> (opcode and offset) that is used to compare the target to the hot
>>>>>> target. This allows to direct all cores to the fast-path, while patching
>>>>>> the slow-path and vice-versa. Patching follows 2 more rules: (1) Only
>>>>>> patch a single byte when the code might be executed by any core. (2)
>>>>>> When patching more than one byte, ensure that all cores do not run the
>>>>>> to-be-patched-code by preventing this code from being preempted, and
>>>>>> using synchronize_sched() after patching the branch that jumps over this
>>>>>> code.
>>>>>> Changing all the indirect calls to use relpolines is done using assembly
>>>>>> macro magic. There are alternative solutions, but this one is
>>>>>> relatively simple and transparent. There is also logic to retrain the
>>>>>> software predictor, but the policy it uses may need to be refined.
>>>>>> Eventually the results are not bad (2 VCPU VM, throughput reported):
>>>>>> base relpoline
>>>>>> ---- ---------
>>>>>> nginx 22898 25178 (+10%)
>>>>>> redis-ycsb 24523 25486 (+4%)
>>>>>> dbench 2144 2103 (+2%)
>>>>>> When retpolines are disabled, and if retraining is off, performance
>>>>>> benefits are up to 2% (nginx), but are much less impressive.
>>>>> Hi Nadav,
>>>>> Peter pointed me to these patches during a discussion about retpoline
>>>>> profiling. Personally, I think this is brilliant. This could help
>>>>> networking and filesystem intensive workloads a lot.
>>>> Thanks! I was a bit held-back by the relatively limited number of responses.
>>> It is a rather, erm, ambitious idea, maybe they were speechless :-)
>>>> I finished another version two weeks ago, and every day I think: "should it
>>>> be RFCv2 or v1”, ending up not sending it…
>>>> There is one issue that I realized while working on the new version: I’m not
>>>> sure it is well-defined what an outline retpoline is allowed to do. The
>>>> indirect branch promotion code can change rflags, which might cause
>>>> correction issues. In practice, using gcc, it is not a problem.
>>> Callees can clobber flags, so it seems fine to me.
>> Just to check I understand your approach right: you made a macro
>> called "call", and you're therefore causing all instances of "call" to
>> become magic? This is... terrifying. It's even plausibly worse than
>> "#define if" :) The scariest bit is that it will impact inline asm as
>> well. Maybe a gcc plugin would be less alarming?
> It is likely to look less alarming. When I looked at the inline retpoline
> implementation of gcc, it didn’t look much better than what I did - it
> basically just emits assembly instructions.

To be clear, that wasn’t a NAK. It was merely a “this is alarming.”

Hey Josh - you could potentially do the same hack to generate the static call tables. Take that, objtool.

> Anyhow, I look (again) into using gcc-plugins.
>>>> 1. An indirect branch inside the BP handler might be the one we patch
>>> I _think_ nested INT3s should be doable, because they don't use IST.
>>> Maybe Andy can clarify.
>> int3 should survive recursion these days. Although I admit I'm
>> currently wondering what happens if one thread puts a kprobe on an
>> address that another thread tries to text_poke.
> The issue I regarded is having an indirect call *inside* the the handler.
> For example, you try to patch the call to bp_int3_handler and then get an
> int3. They can be annotated to prevent them from being patched. Then again,
> I need to see how gcc plugins can get these annotations.

We could move the relevant code to a separate object file that disables the whole mess.

>> Also, this relpoline magic is likely to start patching text at runtime
>> on a semi-regular basis. This type of patching is *slow*. Is it a
>> problem?
> It didn’t appear so. Although there are >10000 indirect branches in the
> kernel, you don’t patch too many of them even you are doing relearning.
>>>> 2. An indirect branch inside an interrupt or NMI handler might be the
>>>> one we patch
>>> But INT3s just use the existing stack, and NMIs support nesting, so I'm
>>> thinking that should also be doable. Andy?
>> In principle, as long as the code isn't NOKPROBE_SYMBOL-ified, we
>> should be fine, right? I'd be a little nervous if we get an int3 in
>> the C code that handles the early part of an NMI from user mode. It's
>> *probably* okay, but one of the alarming issues is that the int3
>> return path will implicitly unmask NMI, which isn't fantastic. Maybe
>> we finally need to dust off my old "return using RET" code to get rid
>> of that problem.
> So it may be possible. It would require having a new text_poke_bp() variant
> for multiple instructions. text_poke_bp() might be slower though.

Can you outline how the patching works at all? You’re getting rid of preempt disabling, right? What’s the actual sequence and how does it work?
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