Managing Multi-core Performance

You can obtain best performance on systems with multi-core processors by requiring thatthreads do not migrate from core to core. To do this, bind threads to the CPU cores bysetting an affinity mask to threads. Use one of the following options:

  • OpenMP facilities (if available), for example, theKMP_AFFINITYenvironment variable using the Intel OpenMP library
  • A system function, as explained below
  • Intel TBB facilities (if available), for example, the tbb::affinity_partitioner class (for details, see

Consider the following performance issue:

  • The system has two sockets with two cores each, for a total of four cores (CPUs).
  • The application sets the number of OpenMP threads to two and calls Intel MKL to perform a Fourier transform. This call takes considerably different amounts of time from run to run.

To resolve this issue, before calling Intel MKL, set an affinity mask for each OpenMP thread using the KMP_AFFINITY environment variable or the sched_setaffinity system function. The following code example shows how to resolve the issue by setting an affinity mask by operating system means using the Intel compiler. The code calls the functionsched_setaffinityto bind the threads tothecoreson different sockets. Then the Intel MKLFFT functionis called:

#define _GNU_SOURCE //for using the GNU CPU affinity
// (works with the appropriate kernel and glibc)
// Set affinity mask
#include <sched.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <omp.h>
int main(void) {
        int NCPUs = sysconf(_SC_NPROCESSORS_CONF);
        printf("Using thread affinity on %i NCPUs\n", NCPUs);
#pragma omp parallel default(shared)
                cpu_set_t new_mask;
                cpu_set_t was_mask;
                int tid = omp_get_thread_num();
                // 2 packages x 2 cores/pkg x 1 threads/core (4 total cores)
                CPU_SET(tid==0 ? 0 : 2, &new_mask);
                if (sched_getaffinity(0, sizeof(was_mask), &was_mask) == -1) {
                        printf("Error: sched_getaffinity(%d, sizeof(was_mask), &was_mask)\n", tid);
                if (sched_setaffinity(0, sizeof(new_mask), &new_mask) == -1) {
                        printf("Error: sched_setaffinity(%d, sizeof(new_mask), &new_mask)\n", tid);
                printf("tid=%d new_mask=%08X was_mask=%08X\n", tid,
                                                *(unsigned int*)(&new_mask), *(unsigned int*)(&was_mask));
        // Call Intel MKL FFT function
        return 0;

Compile the application with the Intel compiler using the following command:

icc test_application.c -openmp 

wheretest_application.cis the filename for the application.

Build the application. Run it in two threads, for example, by using the environment variable to set the number of threads:

env OMP_NUM_THREADS=2 ./a.out

See the Linux Programmer's Manual (in man pages format) for particulars of the sched_setaffinityfunction used in the above example.

Optimization Notice

Intel's compilers may or may not optimize to the same degree for non-Intel microprocessors for optimizations that are not unique to Intel microprocessors. These optimizations include SSE2, SSE3, and SSSE3 instruction sets and other optimizations. Intel does not guarantee the availability, functionality, or effectiveness of any optimization on microprocessors not manufactured by Intel. Microprocessor-dependent optimizations in this product are intended for use with Intel microprocessors. Certain optimizations not specific to Intel microarchitecture are reserved for Intel microprocessors. Please refer to the applicable product User and Reference Guides for more information regarding the specific instruction sets covered by this notice.

Notice revision #20110804

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For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see our Optimization Notice.