Ruby Random Tester

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A cache coherence protocol usually has several different types of state machines, with state machine having several different states. For example, the MESI CMP directory protocol has four different state machines (L1, L2, directory, dma). Testing such a protocol for functional correctness is a challenging task. gem5 provides a random tester for testing coherence protocols. It is called the Ruby Random Tester. The source files related to the tester are present in the directory src/cpu/testers/rubytest. The file configs/examples/ is used for configuration and execution of the test. For example, the following command can be used for testing a protocol --

./build/X86/ ./configs/example/

Though one can specify many different options to the random tester, some of them are note worthy.

Parameter Description
-n, --num-cpus Number of cpus injecting load/store requests to the memory system.
--num-dirs Number of directory controllers in the system.
-m, --maxtick Number of cycles to simulate.
-l, --checks Number of loads to be performed.
--random_seed Seed for initialization of the random number generator.

Testing a coherence protocol with the random tester is a tedious task and requires patience. First, build gem5 with the protocol to be tested. Then, run the ruby random tester as mentioned above. Initially one should run the tester with a single processor, and few loads. It is likely that one would encounter problems. Use the debug flags to get a trace of the events ocurring in the system. You may find the flag ProtocolTrace particularly useful. As these are rectified, keep on increasing the number of loads, say by a factor of 10 each time till one can execute one to ten million loads. Once it starts working for a single processor, a similar process now needs to be followed for a two processor system, followed by larger systems.

Theoretical approaches exist for verifying coherence protocols<ref name="pong" />, but gem5 currently does not include any testers based on those.


<references> <ref name="pong">Fong Pong and Michel Dubois. 1997. Verification techniques for cache coherence protocols. ACM Comput. Surv. 29, 1 (March 1997) <references />