Mosaic: A GPU Memory Manager with Application-Transparent Support for Multiple Page Sizes

Proc. of the International Symposium on Microarchitecture (MICRO), Cambridge, MA, October 2017.

Rachata Ausavarungnirun†, Joshua Landgraf‡, Vance Miller‡, Saugata Ghose†, Jayneel Gandhi*, Christopher J. Rossbach‡*, Onur Mutlu§†

† Carnegie Mellon University
‡ University of Texas, Austin
* VMware Research
§ ETH Zürich


Contemporary discrete GPUs support rich memory management features such as virtual memory and demand paging. These features simplify GPU programming by providing a virtual address space abstraction similar to CPUs and eliminating manual memory management, but they introduce high performance overheads during (1) address translation and (2) page faults. A GPU relies on high degrees of thread-level parallelism (TLP) to hide memory latency. Address translation can undermine TLP, as a single miss in the translation lookaside buffer (TLB) invokes an expensive serialized page table walk that often stalls multiple threads. Demand paging can also undermine TLP, as multiple threads often stall while they wait for an expensive data transfer over the system I/O (e.g., PCIe) bus when the GPU demands a page.

In modern GPUs, we face a trade-off on how the page size used for memory management affects address translation and demand paging. The address translation overhead is lower when we employ a larger page size (e.g., 2MB large pages, compared with conventional 4KB base pages), which increases TLB coverage and thus reduces TLB misses. Conversely, the demand paging overhead is lower when we employ a smaller page size, which decreases the system I/O bus transfer latency. Support for multiple page sizes can help relax the page size trade-off so that address translation and demand paging optimizations work together synergistically. However, existing page coalescing (i.e., merging base pages into a large page) and splintering (i.e., splitting a large page into base pages) policies require costly base page migrations that undermine the benefits multiple page sizes provide. In this paper, we observe that GPGPU applications present an opportunity to support multiple page sizes without costly data migration, as the applications perform most of their memory allocation en masse (i.e., they allocate a large number of base pages at once). We show that this en masse allocation allows us to create intelligent memory allocation policies which ensure that base pages that are contiguous in virtual memory are allocated to contiguous physical memory pages. As a result, coalescing and splintering operations no longer need to migrate base pages.

We introduce Mosaic, a GPU memory manager that provides application-transparent support for multiple page sizes. Mosaic uses base pages to transfer data over the system I/O bus, and allocates physical memory in a way that (1) preserves base page contiguity and (2) ensures that a large page frame contains pages from only a single memory protection domain. We take advantage of this allocation strategy to design a novel in-place page size selection mechanism that avoids data migration. This mechanism allows the TLB to use large pages, reducing address translation overhead. During data transfer, this mechanism enables the GPU to transfer only the base pages that are needed by the application over the system I/O bus, keeping demand paging overhead low. Our evaluations show that Mosaic reduces address translation overheads while efficiently achieving the benefits of demand paging, compared to a contemporary GPU that uses only a 4KB page size. Relative to a state-of-the-art GPU memory manager, Mosaic improves the performance of homogeneous and heterogeneous multi-application workloads by 55.5% and 29.7% on average, respectively, coming within 6.8% and 15.4% of the performance of an ideal TLB where all TLB requests are hits.





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