Streaming SIMD Extensions

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In computing, Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) is a single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) instruction set extension to the x86 architecture, designed by Intel and introduced in 1999 in their Pentium III series of Central processing units (CPUs) shortly after the appearance of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD's) 3DNow!. SSE contains 70 new instructions, most of which work on single precision floating-point data. SIMD instructions can greatly increase performance when exactly the same operations are to be performed on multiple data objects. Typical applications are digital signal processing and graphics processing.

Contents

Intel's first IA-32 SIMD effort was the MMX instruction set. MMX had two main problems: it re-used existing x87 floating-point registers making the CPUs unable to work on both floating-point and SIMD data at the same time, and it only worked on integers. SSE floating-point instructions operate on a new independent register set, the XMM registers, and adds a few integer instructions that work on MMX registers.

SSE was subsequently expanded by Intel to SSE2, SSE3, and SSE4. Because it supports floating-point math, it had wider applications than MMX and became more popular. The addition of integer support in SSE2 made MMX largely redundant, though further performance increases can be attained in some situations[ when? ] by using MMX in parallel with SSE operations.

SSE was originally called Katmai New Instructions (KNI), Katmai being the code name for the first Pentium III core revision. During the Katmai project Intel sought to distinguish it from their earlier product line, particularly their flagship Pentium II. It was later renamed Internet Streaming SIMD Extensions (ISSE [1] ), then SSE. AMD eventually added support for SSE instructions, starting with its Athlon XP and Duron (Morgan core) processors.

Registers

SSE originally added eight new 128-bit registers known as XMM0 through XMM7. The AMD64 extensions from AMD (originally called x86-64) added a further eight registers XMM8 through XMM15, and this extension is duplicated in the Intel 64 architecture. There is also a new 32-bit control/status register, MXCSR. The registers XMM8 through XMM15 are accessible only in 64-bit operating mode.

XMM registers.svg

SSE used only a single data type for XMM registers:

SSE2 would later expand the usage of the XMM registers to include:

Because these 128-bit registers are additional machine states that the operating system must preserve across task switches, they are disabled by default until the operating system explicitly enables them. This means that the OS must know how to use the FXSAVE and FXRSTOR instructions, which is the extended pair of instructions that can save all x86 and SSE register states at once. This support was quickly added to all major IA-32 operating systems.

The first CPU to support SSE, the Pentium III, shared execution resources between SSE and the floating-point unit (FPU). [1] While a compiled application can interleave FPU and SSE instructions side-by-side, the Pentium III will not issue an FPU and an SSE instruction in the same clock cycle. This limitation reduces the effectiveness of pipelining, but the separate XMM registers do allow SIMD and scalar floating-point operations to be mixed without the performance hit from explicit MMX/floating-point mode switching.

SSE instructions

SSE introduced both scalar and packed floating-point instructions.

Floating-point instructions

Integer instructions

Other instructions

Example

The following simple example demonstrates the advantage of using SSE. Consider an operation like vector addition, which is used very often in computer graphics applications. To add two single precision, four-component vectors together using x86 requires four floating-point addition instructions.

vec_res.x=v1.x+v2.x;vec_res.y=v1.y+v2.y;vec_res.z=v1.z+v2.z;vec_res.w=v1.w+v2.w;

This corresponds to four x86 FADD instructions in the object code. On the other hand, as the following pseudo-code shows, a single 128-bit 'packed-add' instruction can replace the four scalar addition instructions.

movapsxmm0,[v1];xmm0 = v1.w | v1.z | v1.y | v1.x addpsxmm0,[v2];xmm0 = v1.w+v2.w | v1.z+v2.z | v1.y+v2.y | v1.x+v2.xmovaps[vec_res],xmm0;xmm0

Later versions

Software and hardware issues

With all x86 instruction set extensions, it is up to the BIOS, operating system and application programmer to test and detect their existence and proper operation.

User application uptake of the x86 extensions has been slow with even bare minimum baseline MMX and SSE support (in some cases) being non-existent by applications some 10 years after these extensions became commonly available. Distributed computing has accelerated the use of these extensions in the scientific community—and many scientific applications refuse to run unless the CPU supports SSE2 or SSE3.

The use of multiple revisions of an application to cope with the many different sets of extensions available is the simplest way around the x86 extension optimization problem. Software libraries and some applications have begun to support multiple extension types hinting that full use of available x86 instructions may finally become common some 5 to 15 years after the instructions were initially introduced.

Identifying

The following programs can be used to determine which, if any, versions of SSE are supported on a system

Related Research Articles

Pentium (original) Intel microporocessor

The Pentium microprocessor was introduced by Intel on March 22, 1993, as the first CPU in the Pentium brand. It was instruction set compatible with the 80486 but was a new and very different microarchitecture design. The P5 Pentium was the first superscalar x86 microarchitecture and the world's first superscalar microprocessor to be in mass production. It included dual integer pipelines, a faster floating-point unit, wider data bus, separate code and data caches, and many other techniques and features to enhance performance and support security, encryption, and multiprocessing, for workstations and servers.

x86 Family of instruction set architectures

x86 is a family of instruction set architectures initially developed by Intel based on the Intel 8086 microprocessor and its 8088 variant. The 8086 was introduced in 1978 as a fully 16-bit extension of Intel's 8-bit 8080 microprocessor, with memory segmentation as a solution for addressing more memory than can be covered by a plain 16-bit address. The term "x86" came into being because the names of several successors to Intel's 8086 processor end in "86", including the 80186, 80286, 80386 and 80486 processors.

SIMD

Single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) is a type of parallel processing in Flynn's taxonomy. SIMD can be internal and it can be directly accessible through an instruction set architecture (ISA): it should not be confused with an ISA. SIMD describes computers with multiple processing elements that perform the same operation on multiple data points simultaneously.

AltiVec is a single-precision floating point and integer SIMD instruction set designed and owned by Apple, IBM, and Freescale Semiconductor — the AIM alliance. It is implemented on versions of the PowerPC processor architecture, including Motorola's G4, IBM's G5 and POWER6 processors, and P.A. Semi's PWRficient PA6T. AltiVec is a trademark owned solely by Freescale, so the system is also referred to as Velocity Engine by Apple and VMX by IBM and P.A. Semi.

MMX (instruction set)

MMX is a single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) instruction set architecture designed by Intel, introduced on January 8, 1997 with its Pentium P5 (microarchitecture) based line of microprocessors, named "Pentium with MMX Technology". It developed out of a similar unit introduced on the Intel i860, and earlier the Intel i750 video pixel processor. MMX is a processor supplementary capability that is supported on IA-32 processors by Intel and other vendors as of 1997.

Visual Instruction Set, or VIS, is a SIMD instruction set extension for SPARC V9 microprocessors developed by Sun Microsystems. There are five versions of VIS: VIS 1, VIS 2, VIS 2+, VIS 3 and VIS 4.

3DNow! is an extension to the x86 instruction set developed by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). It adds single instruction multiple data (SIMD) instructions to the base x86 instruction set, enabling it to perform vector processing of floating-point vector-operations using Vector registers, which improves the performance of many graphic-intensive applications. The first microprocessor to implement 3DNow was the AMD K6-2, which was introduced in 1998. When the application was appropriate, this raised the speed by about 2–4 times.

x86-64 Type of instruction set which is a 64-bit version of the x86 instruction set

x86-64 is a 64-bit version of the x86 instruction set, first released in 1999. It introduced two new modes of operation, 64-bit mode and compatibility mode, along with a new 4-level paging mode.

SSE2 is one of the Intel SIMD processor supplementary instruction sets first introduced by Intel with the initial version of the Pentium 4 in 2000. It extends the earlier SSE instruction set, and is intended to fully replace MMX. Intel extended SSE2 to create SSE3 in 2004. SSE2 added 144 new instructions to SSE, which has 70 instructions. Competing chip-maker AMD added support for SSE2 with the introduction of their Opteron and Athlon 64 ranges of AMD64 64-bit CPUs in 2003.

SSE3, Streaming SIMD Extensions 3, also known by its Intel code name Prescott New Instructions (PNI), is the third iteration of the SSE instruction set for the IA-32 (x86) architecture. Intel introduced SSE3 in early 2004 with the Prescott revision of their Pentium 4 CPU. In April 2005, AMD introduced a subset of SSE3 in revision E of their Athlon 64 CPUs. The earlier SIMD instruction sets on the x86 platform, from oldest to newest, are MMX, 3DNow!, SSE, and SSE2.

The x86 instruction set refers to the set of instructions that x86-compatible microprocessors support. The instructions are usually part of an executable program, often stored as a computer file and executed on the processor.

A register file is an array of processor registers in a central processing unit (CPU). Modern integrated circuit-based register files are usually implemented by way of fast static RAMs with multiple ports. Such RAMs are distinguished by having dedicated read and write ports, whereas ordinary multiported SRAMs will usually read and write through the same ports.

x87 is a floating-point-related subset of the x86 architecture instruction set. It originated as an extension of the 8086 instruction set in the form of optional floating-point coprocessors that worked in tandem with corresponding x86 CPUs. These microchips had names ending in "87". This was also known as the NPX. Like other extensions to the basic instruction set, x87 instructions are not strictly needed to construct working programs, but provide hardware and microcode implementations of common numerical tasks, allowing these tasks to be performed much faster than corresponding machine code routines can. The x87 instruction set includes instructions for basic floating-point operations such as addition, subtraction and comparison, but also for more complex numerical operations, such as the computation of the tangent function and its inverse, for example.

Supplemental Streaming SIMD Extensions 3 is a SIMD instruction set created by Intel and is the fourth iteration of the SSE technology.

SSE4 is a SIMD CPU instruction set used in the Intel Core microarchitecture and AMD K10 (K8L). It was announced on September 27, 2006, at the Fall 2006 Intel Developer Forum, with vague details in a white paper; more precise details of 47 instructions became available at the Spring 2007 Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, in the presentation. SSE4 is fully compatible with software written for previous generations of Intel 64 and IA-32 architecture microprocessors. All existing software continues to run correctly without modification on microprocessors that incorporate SSE4, as well as in the presence of existing and new applications that incorporate SSE4.

The SSE5 was a SIMD instruction set extension proposed by AMD on August 30, 2007 as a supplement to the 128-bit SSE core instructions in the AMD64 architecture.

Advanced Vector Extensions are extensions to the x86 instruction set architecture for microprocessors from Intel and AMD proposed by Intel in March 2008 and first supported by Intel with the Sandy Bridge processor shipping in Q1 2011 and later on by AMD with the Bulldozer processor shipping in Q3 2011. AVX provides new features, new instructions and a new coding scheme.

The VEX prefix and VEX coding scheme are comprising an extension to the x86 and x86-64 instruction set architecture for microprocessors from Intel, AMD and others.

AVX-512 are 512-bit extensions to the 256-bit Advanced Vector Extensions SIMD instructions for x86 instruction set architecture (ISA) proposed by Intel in July 2013, and implemented in Intel's Xeon Phi x200 and Skylake-X CPUs; this includes the Core-X series, as well as the new Xeon Scalable Processor Family and Xeon D-2100 Embedded Series.

The F16C instruction set is an x86 instruction set architecture extension which provides support for converting between half-precision and standard IEEE single-precision floating-point formats.

References

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