Intel Posts New Linux Patches For Cluster Scheduling With Hybrid CPUs

Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 4 May 2023 at 05:00 PM EDT. 2 Comments
A new set of patches were posted today to enable cluster scheduling for x86 hybrid CPUs. In turn thos latest attempt at cluster scheduling for modern Core CPUs of Alder Lake and newer is yielding some small performance benefits over the current code.

Cluster scheduling was previously attempted by Intel engineers for Linux, but it ended up causing regressions... I highlighted the problem back in 2021 with Linux 5.16's New Cluster Scheduling Is Causing Regression, Further Hurting Alder Lake. Now though this latest x86 cluster scheduling for hybrid CPUs should be in better shape.

Intel Raptor Lake

Intel engineer Tim Chen posted today's patch series and commented there:
"Cluster scheduling domain is not enabled on x86 hybrid CPUs as the logic is missing to do proper load balancing between a cluster with SMT CPUs in single core and a cluster with multiple Atom CPUs.

When cluster scheduling was first introduced to x86, it was noticed that with cluster scheduling on hybrid CPU, single threaded task often ended up on Atom core (or E-core) instead on idle Big core (or P-core), resulting in lower performance. Hence cluster scheduling was disabled on x86 hybrid CPU. (See:

Ricardo recently introduced a patch series that greatly improved the load balancing logic between P-cores and E-cores on x86 hybrid CPUs.[email protected]/T/#m16ebc8de64dbf4c54adebab701b42b47805105f4

However, that patch series is not enough to allow the enabling of cluster scheduling on hybrid x86 CPUs. This patch series provides some additional fixes needed for load balancing between cluster sched group consisting of SMT CPUs of Big cores and cluster sched group consisting of Atom CPUs. With these patches applied on top of Ricardo's patch series, load is properly balanced between the P-core and E-core clusters. Idle CPUs are used in the proper order:

1) SMT CPU on an idle P-core,
2) idle E-core,
3) unused SMT CPU with a busy sibling."

With these new patches, the Intel engineer found up to a few percent improvement with his P/E hybrid CPU testing:
"I tested some single threaded benchmarks in Phoronix suite that previously have shown regressions when cluster scheduling was first enabled. Cluster scheduling using this patch series performs as well as vanilla kernel.

Single Threaded 6.3-rc5 with cluster Improvement
Benchmark scheduling in Performance
(run-run deviation)
tjbench (+/- 0.08%) (+/- 0.23%) -0.23%
PhPbench (+/- 0.31%) (+/- 0.89%) -0.39%
flac (+/- 0.58%) (+/- 0.22%) +0.17%
pybench (+/- 3.16%) (+/- 0.27%) +2.55%

For multi-threaded benchmarks, I tried kernel build and tensor flow lite. Cluster scheduling did best for the 10 thread case where 6 threads run on the P-cores, 2 threads on one Atom cluster and 2 threads on the other Atom cluster. Whereas the vanilla kernel will have 6 threads on the P-cores, 4 threads on one Atom cluster. Though the differences are small and fall within run variations.

Multi Threaded 6.3-rc5 with cluster Improvement
Benchmark scheduling in Performance
(-#threads) (run-run deviation)
Kbuild-8 (+/- 2.90%) (+/- 1.16%) -0.76%
Kbuild-10 (+/- 3.08%) (+/- 3.09%) +0.64%
Kbuild-12 (+/- 3.28%) (+/- 3.55%) +0.91%
Tensor Lite-8 (+/- 4.84%) (+/- 4.61%) -0.23%
Tensor Lite-10 (+/- 0.87%) (+/- 1.45%) +0.47%
Tensor Lite-12 (+/- 1.37%) (+/- 1.04%) -0.12%"

It will be interesting to see how this new cluster scheduling attempt pans out, though it's too late for seeing in the v6.4 cycle so wouldn't be mainlined now until at least v6.5. In any case as I have the time to test out the new patches, I'll give them a go on Alder Lake and Raptor Lake to see how it's impacting the Linux performance over a wider span of workloads.

See this kernel mailing list thread if interested in this latest cluster scheduling work for Intel hybrid CPUs.
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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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