SPEC CPU2017 software OS and BIOS Settings Descriptions for Cisco UCS AMD-based systems

Operating System Tuning Parameters

Operating System and Software Tuning Parameters

ulimit -s <n>

Sets the stack size to n kbytes, or unlimited to allow the stack size to grow without limit.

numactl --interleave=all "runspec command"

Launching a process with numactl --interleave=all sets the memory interleave policy so that memory will be allocated using round robin on nodes. When memory cannot be allocated on the current interleave target fall back to other nodes.

Free the file system page cache

The command "echo 1> /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches" is used to free up the filesystem page cache.

Using numactl to bind processes and memory to cores

For multi-copy runs or single copy runs on systems with multiple sockets, it is advantageous to bind a process to a particular core. Otherwise, the OS may arbitrarily move your process from one core to another. This can affect performance. To help, SPEC allows the use of a "submit" command where users can specify a utility to use to bind processes. We have found the utility 'numactl' to be the best choice.

numactl runs processes with a specific NUMA scheduling or memory placement policy. The policy is set for a command and inherited by all of its children. The numactl flag "--physcpubind" specifies which core(s) to bind the process. "-l" instructs numactl to keep a process memory on the local node while "-m" specifies which node(s) to place a process memory. For full details on using numactl, please refer to your Linux documentation, 'man numactl'


This is the percentage of the total amount of free and reclaimable memory. When the amount of dirty pagecache exceeds this percentage, writeback threads start writing back dirty memory. This setting can help Linux disk caching and performance by setting the percentage of system memory that can be filled with dirty pages. This can be set through a command like "echo 40 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_background_ratio".


This control is used to define how aggressively the kernel swaps out anonymous memory relative to pagecache and other caches. Increasing the value increases the amount of swapping. The default value is 60. A value of 1 tells the kernel to only swap processes to disk if absolutely necessary. This can be set through a command like "echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/swappiness".

Zone Reclaim Mode

This parameter controls whether memory reclaim is performed on a local NUMA node even if there is plenty of memory free on other nodes. This parameter is automatically turned on on machines with more pronounced NUMA characteristics. To tell the kernel to free local node memory rather than grabbing free memory from remote nodes, use a command like "echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/zone_reclaim_mode".


A percentage value. When this percentage of total system memory is modified, the system begins writing the modifications to disk with the pdflush operation. The default value is 20 percent. To tell the kernel to free local node memory rather than grabbing free memory from remote nodes, use a command like "echo 1 > /proc/sys/vm/zone_reclaim_mode". This can be set through a command "echo 8 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_ratio".

Linux Huge Page settings

In order to take advantage of large pages, your system must be configured to use large pages. To configure your system for huge pages perform the following steps:

Create a mount point for the huge pages: "mkdir /mnt/hugepages" The huge page file system needs to be mounted when the systems reboots. Add the following to a system boot configuration file before any services are started: "mount -t hugetlbfs nodev /mnt/hugepages" Set vm/nr_hugepages=N in your /etc/sysctl.conf file where N is the maximum number of pages the system may allocate. Reboot to have the changes take effect. (Not necessary on some operating systems like RedHat Enterprise Linux 5.5).

Note that further information about huge pages may be found in your Linux documentation file: /usr/src/linux/Documentation/vm/hugetlbpage.txt

Transparent Huge Pages

On RedHat EL 6 and later, Transparent Hugepages increases the memory page size from 4 kilobytes to 2 megabytes. Transparent Hugepages provides significant performance advantages on systems with highly contended resources and large memory workloads. If memory utilization is too high or memory is badly fragmented which prevents hugepages being allocated, the kernel will assign smaller 4k pages instead. Hugepages are used by default if /sys/kernel/mm/redhat_transparent_hugepage/enabled is set to always.


Set this environment variable to "yes" to enable applications to use large pages.


Specify stack size to be allocated for each thread.


KMP_AFFINITY = < physical | logical >, starting-core-id specifies the static mapping of user threads to physical cores. For example, if you have a system configured with 8 cores, OMP_NUM_THREADS=8 and KMP_AFFINITY=physical,0 then thread 0 will mapped to core 0, thread 1 will be mapped to core 1, and so on in a round-robin fashion. KMP_AFFINITY = granularity=fine,scatter The value for the environment variable KMP_AFFINITY affects how the threads from an auto-parallelized program are scheduled across processors. Specifying granularity=fine selects the finest granularity level, causes each OpenMP thread to be bound to a single thread context. This ensures that there is only one thread per core on cores supporting HyperThreading Technology Specifying scatter distributes the threads as evenly as possible across the entire system. Hence a combination of these two options, will spread the threads evenly across sockets, with one thread per physical core.


Sets the maximum number of threads to use for OpenMP* parallel regions if no other value is specified in the application. This environment variable applies to both -openmp and -parallel (Linux and Mac OS X) or /Qopenmp and /Qparallel (Windows). Example syntax on a Linux system with 8 cores: export OMP_NUM_THREADS=8

Firmware / BIOS / Microcode Settings

Determinism Slider

This option allows the processor to use a given performance level as the max cap, or to let the processor operate as close to the thermal design point (TDP) as possible. Values for this BIOS option can be: Power: Processor operates as close to the TDP as possible. Performance: Processor operates at a capped performance level as the max operating state.

High Bandwidth:

Enabling this option allows the chipset to defer memory transactions and process them out of order for optimal performance.

submit= MYMASK=`printf '0x%x' \$((1<< \$SPECCOPYNUM))`; /usr/bin/taskset \$MYMASK $command

When running multiple copies of benchmarks, the SPEC config file feature submit is sometimes used to cause individual jobs to be bound to specific processors. This specific submit command is used for Linux. The description of the elements of the command are:

/usr/bin/taskset [options] [mask] [pid | command [arg] ... ] :
taskset is used to set or retreive the CPU affinity of a running process given its PID or to launch a new COMMAND with a given CPU affinity. The CPU affinity is represented as a bitmask, with the lowest order bit corresponding to the first logical CPU and highest order bit corresponding to the last logical CPU. When the taskset returns, it is guaranteed that the given program has been scheduled to a legal CPU.
The default behaviour of taskset is to run a new command with a given affinity mask: :
taskset [mask] [command] [arguments]