Chapter 8. Setting CPU affinity on RHEL for Real Time

download PDF

All threads and interrupt sources in the system has a processor affinity property. The operating system scheduler uses this information to determine the threads and interrupts to run on a CPU. By setting processor affinity, along with effective policy and priority settings, you can achieve maximum possible performance. Applications always compete for resources, especially CPU time, with other processes. Depending on the application, related threads are often run on the same core. Alternatively, one application thread can be allocated to one core.

Systems that perform multitasking are naturally more prone to indeterminism. Even high priority applications can be delayed from executing while a lower priority application is in a critical section of code. After the low priority application exits the critical section, the kernel safely preempts the low priority application and schedules the high priority application on the processor. Additionally, migrating processes from one CPU to another can be costly due to cache invalidation. RHEL for Real Time includes tools that address some of these issues and allows latency to be better controlled.

Affinity is represented as a bit mask, where each bit in the mask represents a CPU core. If the bit is set to 1, then the thread or interrupt runs on that core; if 0 then the thread or interrupt is excluded from running on the core. The default value for an affinity bit mask is all ones, meaning the thread or interrupt can run on any core in the system.

By default, processes can run on any CPU. However, by changing the affinity of the process, you can define a process to run on a predetermined set of CPUs. Child processes inherit the CPU affinities of their parents.

Setting the following typical affinity setups can achieve maximum possible performance:

  • Using a single CPU core for all system processes and setting the application to run on the remainder of the cores.
  • Configuring a thread application and a specific kernel thread, such as network softirq or a driver thread, on the same CPU.
  • Pairing the producer-consumer threads on each CPU. Producers and consumers are two classes of threads, where producers insert data into the buffer and consumers remove it from the buffer.

The usual good practice for tuning affinities on a real-time system is to determine the number of cores required to run the application and then isolate those cores. You can achieve this with the Tuna tool or with the shell scripts to modify the bit mask value, such as the taskset command. The taskset command changes the affinity of a process and modifying the /proc/ file system entry changes the affinity of an interrupt.

8.1. Tuning processor affinity using the taskset command

On real-time, the taskset command helps to set or retrieve the CPU affinity of a running process. The taskset command takes -p and -c options. The -p or --pid option work an existing process and does not start a new task. The -c or --cpu-list specify a numerical list of processors instead of a bitmask. The list can contain more than one items, separated by comma, and a range of processors. For example, 0,5,7,9-11.


  • You have root permissions on the system.


  • To verify the process affinity for a specific process:

    # taskset -p -c 1000
       pid 1000’s current affinity list: 0,1

    The command prints the affinity of the process with PID 1000. The process is set up to use CPU 0 or CPU 1.

    • (Optional) To configure a specific CPU to bind a process:

      # taskset -p -c 1 1000
      pid 1000’s current affinity list: 0,1
      pid 1000’s new affinity list: 1
    • (Optional) To define more than one CPU affinity:

      # taskset -p -c 0,1 1000
      pid 1000’s current affinity list: 1
      pid 1000’s new affinity list: 0,1
    • (Optional) To configure a priority level and a policy on a specific CPU:

      # taskset -c 5 chrt -f 78 /bin/my-app

      For further granularity, you can also specify the priority and policy. In the example, the command runs the /bin/my-app application on CPU 5 with SCHED_FIFO policy and a priority value of 78.

8.2. Setting processor affinity using the sched_setaffinity() system call

You can also set processor affinity using the real-time sched_setaffinity() system call.


  • You have root permissions on the system.


  • To set the processor affinity with sched_setaffinity():

    #define _GNU_SOURCE
    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <stdlib.h>
    #include <unistd.h>
    #include <errno.h>
    #include <sched.h>
    int main(int argc, char **argv)
      int i, online=0;
      ulong ncores = sysconf(_SC_NPROCESSORS_CONF);
      cpu_set_t *setp = CPU_ALLOC(ncores);
      ulong setsz = CPU_ALLOC_SIZE(ncores);
      CPU_ZERO_S(setsz, setp);
      if (sched_getaffinity(0, setsz, setp) == -1) {
        perror("sched_getaffinity(2) failed");
      for (i=0; i < CPU_COUNT_S(setsz, setp); i) {
        if (CPU_ISSET_S(i, setsz, setp))
      printf("%d cores configured, %d cpus allowed in affinity mask\n", ncores, online);

8.3. Isolating a single CPU to run high utilization tasks

With the cpusets mechanism, you can assign a set of CPUs and memory nodes for SCHED_DEADLINE tasks. In a task set that has high and low CPU utilizing tasks, isolating a CPU to run the high utilization task and scheduling small utilization tasks on different sets of CPU, enables all tasks to meet the assigned runtime.


  • You have root permissions on the system.


  1. Create two directories named as cpuset:

    # cd /sys/fs/cgroup/cpuset/
    # mkdir cluster
    # mkdir partition
  2. Disable the load balance of the root cpuset to create two new root domains in the cpuset directory:

    # echo 0 > cpuset.sched_load_balance
  3. In the cluster cpuset, schedule the low utilization tasks to run on CPU 1 to 7, verify memory size, and name the CPU as exclusive:

    # cd cluster/
    # echo 1-7 > cpuset.cpus
    # echo 0 > cpuset.mems
    # echo 1 > cpuset.cpu_exclusive
  4. Move all low utilization tasks to the cpuset directory:

    # ps -eLo lwp | while read thread; do echo $thread > tasks ; done
  5. Create a partition named as cpuset and assign the high utilization task:

    # cd ../partition/
    # echo 1 > cpuset.cpu_exclusive
    # echo 0 > cpuset.mems
    # echo 0 > cpuset.cpus
  6. Set the shell to the cpuset and start the deadline workload:

    # echo $$ > tasks
    # /root/d &

    With this setup, the task isolated in the partitioned cpuset directory does not interfere with the task in the cluster cpuset directory. This enables all real-time tasks to meet the scheduler deadline.

8.4. Reducing CPU performance spikes

A common source of latency spikes is when multiple CPUs contend on common locks in the kernel timer tick handler. The usual lock responsible for the contention is xtime_lock, which is used by the timekeeping system and the Read-Copy-Update (RCU) structure locks. By using skew_tick=1, you can offset the timer tick per CPU to start at a different time and avoid potential lock conflicts.

The skew_tick kernel command line parameter might prevent latency fluctuations on moderate to large systems with large core-counts and have latency-sensitive workloads.


  • You have administrator permissions.


  1. Enable the skew_tick=1 parameter with grubby.

    # grubby --update-kernel=ALL --args="skew_tick=1"
  2. Reboot for changes to take effect.

    # reboot

Enabling skew_tick=1 causes a significant increase in power consumption and, therefore, you must enable the skew boot parameter only if you are running latency sensitive real-time workloads and consistent latency is an important consideration over power consumption.


Display the /proc/cmdline file and ensure skew_tick=1 is specified. The /proc/cmdline file shows the parameters passed to the kernel.

  • Check the new settings in the /proc/cmdline file.

    # cat /proc/cmdline

8.5. Lowering CPU usage by disabling the PC card daemon

The pcscd daemon manages connections to parallel communication (PC or PCMCIA) and smart card (SC) readers. Although pcscd is usually a low priority task, it can often use more CPU than any other daemon. Therefore, the additional background noise can lead to higher preemption costs to real-time tasks and other undesirable impacts on determinism.


  • You have root permissions on the system.


  1. Check the status of the pcscd daemon.

    # systemctl status pcscd
    ● pcscd.service - PC/SC Smart Card Daemon
         Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/system/pcscd.service; indirect; vendor preset: disabled)
         Active: active (running) since Mon 2021-03-01 17:15:06 IST; 4s ago
    TriggeredBy: ● pcscd.socket
           Docs: man:pcscd(8)
       Main PID: 2504609 (pcscd)
          Tasks: 3 (limit: 18732)
         Memory: 1.1M
            CPU: 24ms
         CGroup: /system.slice/pcscd.service
                 └─2504609 /usr/sbin/pcscd --foreground --auto-exit

    The Active parameter shows the status of the pcsd daemon.

  2. If the pcsd daemon is running, stop it.

    # systemctl stop pcscd
    Warning: Stopping pcscd.service, but it can still be activated by:
  3. Configure the system to ensure that the pcsd daemon does not restart when the system boots.

    # systemctl disable pcscd
    Removed /etc/systemd/system/

Verification steps

  1. Check the status of the pcscd daemon.

    # systemctl status pcscd
    ● pcscd.service - PC/SC Smart Card Daemon
         Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/system/pcscd.service; indirect; vendor preset: disabled)
         Active: inactive (dead) since Mon 2021-03-01 17:10:56 IST; 1min 22s ago
    TriggeredBy: ● pcscd.socket
           Docs: man:pcscd(8)
       Main PID: 4494 (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
            CPU: 37ms
  2. Ensure that the value for the Active parameter is inactive (dead).
Red Hat logoGithubRedditYoutubeTwitter


Try, buy, & sell


About Red Hat Documentation

We help Red Hat users innovate and achieve their goals with our products and services with content they can trust.

Making open source more inclusive

Red Hat is committed to replacing problematic language in our code, documentation, and web properties. For more details, see the Red Hat Blog.

About Red Hat

We deliver hardened solutions that make it easier for enterprises to work across platforms and environments, from the core datacenter to the network edge.

© 2024 Red Hat, Inc.