Linux – cpu load measure with hyperthreading on linux

cpu usagehyper-threadinglinuxtop

How can I get the true usage of a multicore hyperthreading enabled cpu?

For example lets consider a 2 core CPU, expressing 4 virtual cores.

A single threaded workload would now show up as 100% in top, as one core of the virtual cores is completely used. The CPU and top work as expected, like there would be 4 real cores.

With two threads however, the things get arkward: If all works well, they are balanced to the two real cores, so we got 200% usage: Two times 100% and two idle virtual cores, and are using all of the available CPU power. Seems ok to me.

However, if the two threads would run on a single real core, they would show up as using two times 100%, that makes 200% virtual core usage. But on the real side, that would be one core sharing its power on the two threads, which are then using only one half of the total CPU power.

So the usage numbers shown by top can not be used to measure the total CPU workload.

I also wonder how hyperthreading balances two virtual on a real core. If two threads take a different amount of cycles, would the virtual cores 'adapt' so that both show a 100% load even if the real load differ?

Best Answer

Martin Tegtmeier at Oracle has written an interesting blog-post about this last year:

The short answer; Hyperthreading really messes with top's ability to report overall cpu-utilisation / cpu-idle percentages.

In the worst case, a 2-core 4-virtual-core CPU running 2 threads at 100%-utilisation-per-core, could nearly saturate the cpu. (Depending on execution port usage; only threads that use entirely different computing resources on the cpu could still run without affecting the performance on the current thread.) However, top will still report 50% idle in this case.