Chapter 4. Application tuning and deployment

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Tuning a real-time kernel with a combination of optimal configurations and settings can help in enhancing and developing RHEL for Real Time applications.


In general, try to use POSIX defined APIs (application programming interfaces). RHEL for Real Time is compliant with POSIX standards. Latency reduction in RHEL for Real Time kernel is also based on POSIX.

4.1. Signal processing in real-time applications

Traditional UNIX and POSIX signals have their uses, especially for error handling, but they are not suitable as an event delivery mechanism in real-time applications. This is because the current Linux kernel signal handling code is quite complex, mainly due to legacy behavior and the many APIs that need to be supported. This complexity means that the code paths that are taken when delivering a signal are not always optimal, and long latencies can be experienced by applications.

The original motivation behind UNIX signals was to multiplex one thread of control (the process) between different "threads" of execution. Signals behave somewhat like operating system interrupts. That is, when a signal is delivered to an application, the application’s context is saved and it starts executing a previously registered signal handler. Once the signal handler completes, the application returns to executing where it was when the signal was delivered. This can get complicated in practice.

Signals are too non-deterministic to trust in a real-time application. A better option is to use POSIX Threads (pthreads) to distribute your workload and communicate between various components. You can coordinate groups of threads using the pthreads mechanisms of mutexes, condition variables, and barriers. The code paths through these relatively new constructs are much cleaner than the legacy handling code for signals.

4.2. Synchronizing threads

The sched_yield command is a synchronization mechanism that can allow lower priority threads a chance to run. This type of request is prone to failure when issued from within a poorly-written application.

A higher priority thread can call sched_yield() to allow other threads a chance to run. The calling process gets moved to the tail of the queue of processes running at that priority. When this occurs in a situation where there are no other processes running at the same priority, the calling process continues running. If the priority of that process is high, it can potentially create a busy loop, rendering the machine unusable.

When a SCHED_DEADLINE task calls sched_yield(), it gives up the configured CPU, and the remaining runtime is immediately throttled until the next period. The sched_yield() behavior allows the task to wake up at the start of the next period.

The scheduler is better able to determine when, and if, there actually are other threads waiting to run. Avoid using sched_yield() on any real-time task.


  • To call the sched_yield() function, run the following code:

    for(;;) {
    	     * Notify the scheduler the end of the computation
                 * This syscall will block until the next replenishment

    The SCHED_DEADLINE task gets throttled by the conflict-based search (CBS) algorithm until the next period (start of next execution of the loop).

Additional resources

  • pthread.h(P) man page
  • sched_yield(2) man page
  • sched_yield(3p) man page

4.3. Real-time scheduler priorities

The systemd command can be used to set real-time priority for services launched during the boot process. Some kernel threads can be given a very high priority. This allows the default priorities to integrate well with the requirements of the Real Time Specification for Java (RTSJ). RTSJ requires a range of priorities from 10 to 89.

For deployments where RTSJ is not in use, there is a wide range of scheduling priorities below 90 that can be used by applications. Use extreme caution when scheduling any application thread above priority 49 because it can prevent essential system services from running, because it can prevent essential system services from running. This can result in unpredictable behavior, including blocked network traffic, blocked virtual memory paging, and data corruption due to blocked filesystem journaling.

If any application threads are scheduled above priority 89, ensure that the threads run only a very short code path. Failure to do so would undermine the low latency capabilities of the RHEL for Real Time kernel.

Setting real-time priority for users without mandatory privileges

By default, only users with root permissions on the application can change priority and scheduling information. To provide root permissions, you can modify settings and the preferred method is to add a user to the realtime group.


You can also change user privileges by editing the /etc/security/limits.conf file. However, this can result in duplication and render the system unusable for regular users. If you decide to edit this file, exercise caution and always create a copy before making changes.

4.4. Loading dynamic libraries

When developing real-time application, consider resolving symbols at startup to avoid non-deterministic latencies during program execution. Resolving symbols at startup can slow down program initialization. You can instruct Dynamic Libraries to load at application startup by setting the LD_BIND_NOW variable with, the dynamic linker/loader.

For example, the following shell script exports the LD_BIND_NOW variable with a value of 1, then runs a program with a scheduler policy of FIFO and a priority of 1.


export LD_BIND_NOW

chrt --fifo 1 _/opt/myapp/myapp-server &_

Additional resources

  • man page
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