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USENIX Annual Technical Conference (NO 98), 1998 Abstract

SimICS/sun4m: A Virtual Workstation

Peter S. Magnusson, Fredrik Larsson, Andreas Moestedt, Bengt Werner
Swedish Institute of Computer Science
Fredrik Dahlgren, Magnus Karlsson, Fredrik Lundholm, Jim Nilsson, Per Stenström,
Chalmers University of Technology;
Håkan Grahn, University of Karlskrona/Ronneby


System level simulators allow computer architects and system software designers to recreate an accurate and complete replica of the program behavior of a target system, regardless of the availability, existence, or in-strumentation support of such a system=2E Applications include evaluation of architectural design alternatives as well as software engineering tasks such as traditional debugging and performance tuning.

We present an implementation of a simulator acting as a virtual workstation fully compatible with the sun4m architecture from Sun Microsystems. Built using the system-level SPARC V8 simulator SimICS, SimICS/sun4m models one or more SPARC V8 proces-sors, supports user-developed modules for data cache and instruction cache simulation and execution pro-filing of all code, and provides a symbolic and performance debugging environment for operating systems.

SimICS/sun4m can boot unmodified operating systems, including Linux 2.0.30 and Solaris 2.6, directly from snapshots of disk partitions. To support essentially arbitrary code, we implemented binary-compatible simulators for several devices, including SCSI, console, interrupt, timers, EEPROM, and Ethernet. The Ethernet simulation hooks into the host and allows the virtual workstation to appear on the local network with full services available (NFS, NIS, rsh, etc). Ethernet and console traffic can be recorded for future playback.

The performance of SimICS/sun4m is sufficient to run realistic workloads, such as the database benchmark TPC-D, scaling factor 1/100, or an interactive network application such as Mozilla. The slowdown in relation to native hardware is in the range of 25 to 75 (measured using SPECint95). We also demonstrate some applica-tions, including modeling an 8-processor sun4m version (which does not exist), modeling future memory hierarchies, and debugging an operating system.

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