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Chapter: Advanced Computer Architecture : Memory And I/O

Virtual memory & techniques for fast address translation

1. Techniques for Fast Address Translation 2. A Paged Virtual Memory Example: The Alpha Memory Management and the 21264 3. A Segmented Virtual Memory Example: Protection in the Intel Pentium

Virtual memory & techniques for fast address translation


Virtual memory divides physical memory into blocks (called page or segment) and allocates them to different processes. With virtual memory, the CPU produces virtual addresses that are translated by a combination of HW and SW to physical addresses, which accesses main memory. The process is called memory mapping or address translation.Today, the two memory-hierarchy levels controlled by virtual memory are DRAMs and magnetic disks


Virtual Memory manages the two levels of the memory hierarchy represented by main memory and secondary storage. Figure 5.31 shows the mapping of virtual memory to physical memory for a program with four pages.

There are further differences between caches and virtual memory beyond those quantitative ones mentioned in Figure 5.32


Virtual memory also encompasses several related techniques. Virtual memory systems can be categorized into two classes: those with fixed-size blocks, called pages, and those with variable-size locks, called segments. Pages are typically fixed at 4096 to 65,536 bytes, while16 segment size varies. The largest segment supported on any processor ranges from 2   bytes up to 32

2 bytes; the smallest segment is 1 byte. Figure 5.33 shows how the two approaches might divide code and data.


The block can be placed anywhere in main memory. Both paging and segmentation rely


on a data structure that is indexed by the page or segment number. This data structure contains the physical address of the block. For segmentation, the offset is added to the segment’s physical address to obtain the final physical address. For paging, the offset is simply concatenated to this physical page address (see Figure 5.35).

This data structure, containing the physical page addresses, usually takes the form of a page table. Indexed by the virtual page number, the size of the table is the number of pages in the virtual address space. Given a 32-bit virtual address, 4-KB pages, and 4 bytes per page table  entry, the size of the page table would be (232/212)x22=222 or 4 MB


To reduce address translation time, computers use a cache dedicated to these addres translations, called a translation look-aside buffer, or simply translation buffer. They are described in more detail shortly.


With the help of Operating System and LRU algorithm pages can be replaced whenever page fault occurs.


1. Techniques for Fast Address Translation


Page tables are usually so large that they are stored in main memory, and some-times paged themselves. Paging means that every memory access logically takes at least twice as long, with one memory access to obtain the physical address and a second access to get the data. This cost is far too dear.


One remedy is to remember the last translation, so that the mapping process is skipped if the current address refers to the same page as the last one. A more general solution is to again rely on the principle of locality; if the accesses have locality, then the address translations for the accesses must also have locality. By keeping these address translations in a special cache, a memory access rarely re-quires a second access to translate the data. This special address translation cache is referred to as a translation look-aside buffer or TLB, also called a translation buffer or TB.


A TLB entry is like a cache entry where the tag holds portions of the virtual address and the data portion holds a physical page frame number, protection field, valid bit, and usually a use bit and dirty bit. To change the physical page frame number or protection of an entry in the page


table, the operating system must make sure the old entry is not in the TLB; otherwise, the system won’t be-have properly. Note that this dirty bit means the corresponding page is dirty, not that

the address translation in the TLB is dirty nor that a particular block in the data cache is dirty. The operating system resets these bits by changing the value in the page table and then invalidating the corresponding TLB entry. When the entry is reloaded from the page table, the TLB gets an accurate copy of the bits.


Figure 5.5 shows the Alpha 21264 data TLB organization, with each step of a translation labeled. The TLB uses fully associative placement; thus, the translation begins (steps 1 and 2) by sending the virtual address to all tags. Of course, the tag must be marked valid to allow a match. At the same time, the type of memory access is checked for a violation (also in step 2) against protection infor-mation in the TLB.


Selecting a Page Size


The most obvious architectural parameter is the page size. Choosing the page is a question of balancing forces that favor a larger page size versus those favoring a smaller size. The following favor a larger size:


Ø The size of the page table is inversely proportional to the page size; memory (or other resources used for the memory map) can therefore be saved by making the pages bigger.


Ø A larger page size can allow larger caches with fast cache hit times.


Ø Transferring larger pages to or from secondary storage, possibly over a network, is more efficient than transferring smaller pages.


Ø The number of TLB entries are restricted, so a larger page size means that more memory can be mapped efficiently, thereby reducing the number of TLB misses.


Virtual memory protection


Multiprogramming forces to worry about usage of virtual memory. So Protection is required for virtual memory concept. The responsibility for maintaining correct process behavior is shared by designers of the computer and the operating system. The computer designer must


ensure that the CPU portion of the process state can be saved and restored. The operating system designer must guarantee that processes do not interfere with each others’ computations.


The safest way to protect the state of one process from another would be to copy the current information to disk. However, a process switch would then take seconds—far too long for a time-sharing environment. This problem is solved by operating systems partitioning main memory so that several different processes have their state in memory at the same time.


Protecting Processes


The simplest protection mechanism is a pair of registers that checks every ad-dress to be sure that it falls between the two limits, traditionally called base and bound. An address is valid if Base ≤ Address ≤ Bound



In some systems, the address is considered an unsigned number that is always added to the base, so the limit test is just (Base + Address) ≤ Bound


If user processes are allowed to change the base and bounds registers, then users can’t be protected from each other. The operating system, however, must be able to change the registers so that it can switch processes. Hence, the computer designer has three more responsibilities in helping the operating system designer protect processes from each other:


Ø Provide at least two modes, indicating whether the running process is a user process or an operating system process. This latter process is sometimes called a kernel process, a supervisor process, or an executive process.


Ø Provide a portion of the CPU state that a user process can use but not write. This state includes the base/bound registers, a user/supervisor mode bit(s), and the exception enable/disable bit. Users are prevented from writing this state because the operating system cannot control user processes if users can change the address range checks, give themselves supervisor privileges, or disable exceptions.


Ø Provide mechanisms whereby the CPU can go from user mode to supervisor mode and vice versa. The first direction is typically accomplished by a system call, implemented as a special instruction that transfers control to a dedicated location in supervisor code space. The PC is saved from the point of the sys-tem call, and the CPU is placed in supervisor mode. The return to user mode is like a subroutine return that restores the previous user/supervisor mode.



2. A Paged Virtual Memory Example: The Alpha Memory Management and the 21264



The Alpha architecture uses a combination of segmentation and paging, providing protection while minimizing page table size. With 48-bit virtual addresses, the 64-bit address space is first divided into three segments: seg0 (bits 63 - 47 = 0...00), kseg (bits 63 - 46 = 0...10), and seg1 (bits 63 to 46 = 1...11). kseg is re-served for the operating system kernel, has uniform protection for the whole space, and does not use memory management.


User processes use seg0, which is mapped into pages with individual protection. Figure 5.38 shows the layout of seg0 and seg1. seg 0 grows from address 0 upward, while seg1 grows downward to 0. This approach provides many advantages: segmentation divides the address space and conserves page table space, while paging provides virtual memory, relocation, and protection.


The Alpha uses a three-level hierarchical page table to map the address space to keep the


size reasonable. Figure 5.5 shows address translation in the Alpha. The addresses for each of these page tables come from three “level” fields, labeled level1, level2, and level3. Address

translation starts with adding the level1 address field to the page table base register and then reading memory from this location to get the base of the second-level page table.


The level2 address field is in turn added to this newly fetched address, and memory is accessed again to determine the base of the third page table. The level3 address field is added to this base address, and memory is read using this sum to (finally) get the physical address of the page being referenced. This address is concatenated with the page offset to get the full physical address. Each page table in the Alpha architecture is constrained to fit within a single page.


The first three levels (0, 1, and 2) use physical addresses that need no further translation, but Level 3 is mapped virtually. These normally hit the TLB, but if not, the table is accessed a second time with physical addresses.


The Alpha uses a 64-bit page table entry (PTE) in each of these page tables. The first 32 bits contain the physical page frame number, and the other half includes the following five protection fields:


Valid—Says that the page frame number is valid for hardware translation User read enable—Allows user programs to read data within this page Kernel read enable—Allows the kernel to read data within this page User write enable—Allows user programs to write data within this page


Kernel write enable—Allows the kernel to write data within this page


In addition, the PTE has fields reserved for systems software to use as it pleases. Since the Alpha goes through three levels of tables on a TLB miss, there are three potential places to check protection restrictions. The Alpha obeys only the bottom-level PTE, checking the others only to be sure the valid bit is set.


3. A Segmented Virtual Memory Example: Protection in the Intel Pentium


The original 8086 used segments for addressing, yet it provided nothing for virtual memory or for protection. Segments had base registers but no bound registers and no access checks, and before a segment register could be loaded the corresponding segment had to be in physical memory.


Intel’s dedication to virtual memory and protection is evident in the successors to the 8086 (today called IA-32), with a few fields extended to support larger addresses. This protection scheme is elaborate, with many details carefully designed to try to avoid security loopholes.


The first enhancement is to double the traditional two-level protection model: the Pentium has four levels of protection. The innermost level (0) corresponds to Alpha kernel mode and the outermost level (3) corresponds to Alpha user mode. The IA-32 has separate stacks for each level to avoid security breaches between the levels.


The IA-32 divides the address space, al-lowing both the operating system and the user access to the full space. The IA-32 user can call an operating system routine in this space and


even pass parameters to it while retaining full protection. This safe call is not a trivial action, since the stack for the operating system is different from the user’s stack. Moreover, the IA-32

allows the operating system to maintain the protection level of the called routine for the parameters that are passed to it. This potential loophole in protection is prevented by not allowing the user process to ask the operating system to access something indirectly that it would not have been able to access itself. (Such security loopholes are called Trojan horses.)


Adding Bounds Checking and Memory Mapping


The first step in enhancing the Intel processor was getting the segmented addressing to check bounds as well as supply a base. Rather than a base address, as in the 8086, segment registers in the IA-32 contain an index to a virtual memory data structure called a descriptor table. Descriptor tables play the role of page tables in the Alpha. On the IA-32 the equivalent of a page table entry is a segment descriptor.


It contains fields found in PTEs:


A present bit—equivalent to the PTE valid bit, used to indicate this is a valid translation A base field—equivalent to a page frame address, containing the physical address of the


first byte of the segment


An access bit—like the reference bit or use bit in some architectures that is helpful for replacement algorithms


An attributes field—specifies the valid operations and protection levels for operations that use this segment


There is also a limit field, not found in paged systems, which establishes the upper bound of valid offsets for this segment. Figure 5.41 shows examples of IA-32 segment descriptors.


IA-32 provides an optional paging system in addition to this segmented addressing. The upper portion of the 32-bit address selects the segment descriptor and the middle portion is an index into the page table selected by the descriptor.


Adding Sharing and Protection


To provide for protected sharing, half of the address space is shared by all processes and half is unique to each process, called global address space and local address space, respectively. Each half is given a descriptor table with the appropriate name. A descriptor pointing to a shared segment is placed in the global descriptor table, while a descriptor for a private segment is placed in the local descriptor table.

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