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Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] GNU Radio Measurement Toolbox -- GSoC '14 Project

From: Bogdan Diaconescu
Subject: Re: [Discuss-gnuradio] GNU Radio Measurement Toolbox -- GSoC '14 Project
Date: Sun, 25 May 2014 13:46:11 -0700 (PDT)

Hi Marcus,

take your time :) this is not a simple problem to solve and hence it does not have a simple solution. I like the idea of starting with changing the scheduler behaviour first to experiment with. Indeed it will take a lot of measurements, talks, experiments (not exactly in this order) to understand what is to be optimized.

But this talk is touching the gnuradio scheduler area which is an area of its own and it brings me to one question: what happen with GRAS?


On Sunday, May 25, 2014 10:14 PM, Marcus Müller <address@hidden> wrote:

Hash: SHA1

Hi Bogdan,

thanks for your comment :)

Such an optimizer would be really, really fancy.

In a way, though, GNU Radio already does this when running a flow
graph: It just asks blocks to compute a reasonable amount of items to
fill up the downstream buffer. This actually (conceptually simple)
approach is one great strength, because it just keeps the computer
"busy" as much as possible.

There might be space for optimization, though, I agree: Maybe it would
be better for some blocks just to wait longer (and thus, not utilize
the CPU) if it was computationally beneficial to work on larger
chunks, as long as there are enough other blocks competing for CPU power.

However, this leads to the problem of balancing average throughput
with latency.

What the GNU Radio infrastructure does to approach this is actually
quite simple:
1. Although it might be "fastest" to process all data at once, buffer
lengths set a natural limit to the chunk size, and thus latency. So we
have an upper boundary.
2. It is best to be closest possible to that upper boundary. To
achieve that, block developers are always encouraged to consume as
many input items and produce as much output as possible, even if the
overhead of having multiple (general_)work calls is minute. This
ensures that adjacent blocks don't get asked to produce / consume
small item chunks (which will happen if they were in a waiting state
and a small number of items was produced or a small amount of output
buffer was marked as read).

Optimizing this will be hard. Maybe one could profile the same
flowgraph with a lot of different settings of per-block maximum output
chunk sizes, but I do believe this will only give as little more
information than what the block developer already knew when he
optimized the block in the first place. If he didn't optimize, his
main interest will be if his block poses a problem at at all; for
that, standard settings should be employed.

To give developers an API to inform the runtime of item amount
preference, different methods exist, however. I'll give a short
rundown of them.

1. Most notable are the ``fixed_rate properties`` of ``gr::block``, as
implemented in ``sync_block``, and the ``decimator`` and
``interpolator`` block types
2. If your block will only produce a multiples of a certain number of
items, the ``set_output_multiple`` is a method that will potentially
decrease overhead introduced by pointless calls to ``forecast`` and/or
3. In hardware optimization, alignment is often the performance
critical factor. To account for that, set_alignment was introduced.
It's working very similar to ``set_output_multiple``, but does not
*enforce* the multiples, but sets an unaligned flag if non-multiple
consumption occurred. The runtime will always try to achieve that the
start of your current item chunk is memory-aligned to a certain item
multiple. If however less was produced, your block might still be
called, to keep the data flowing.

To properly apply these flags, you'll basically need a human
understanding of what the block does. It may, nevertheless, be very
helpful to understand how well your block performs with different item
chunk sizes. To realize that, some mechanism to change scheduling

I will look into that; I think it should be possible to manipulate the
``block_executors`` to manipulate them into changing their
forecasting/work calling behavior at runtime, but I'm quite sure that
this will bring new code into the main tree[1].

All in all, right now I'm really stuck with what I actually want to
improve with the performance analysis of GNU Radio flowgraphs offered
by performance counters/gr-perf-monitorx, because they address many of
these issues already. Your execution-per-item over chunk size idea is

So long,

[1] I'll really have to take a deeeep look at block_executor and the
tpb scheduler to tell; if I decide to add functionality that
introduces significant runtime overhead or changes too much of
internal behaviour, noone will be pleased, so I might take this slow
and will have to discuss it with experienced core developers. I'm not
very hesitant when it comes to fiddling with in-tree source code, but
my workings almost never make it to the public, because I always
figure they don't address a problem properly or break too much in
comparison to what they can possibly improve.

On 25.05.2014 19:34, Bogdan Diaconescu wrote:
> Hi Marcus,
> I like the approach you take by looking at what real life users
> will want from gnuradio when transitioning from an academic
> perspective to realtime system. Measurements are always not enough
> to understand the specifics of your system so I'm looking forward
> to see how your project provides measurements to the gnuradio
> user.
> Building on block computing performance measurements there is one
> thing I would like to see in gnuradio and that is a flowgraph
> optimizer.
> To be more specific, a flowgraph optimizer would try to adapt the
> parameters of the blocks (e.g. the data chunk passed to each block)
> in order to optimize one/more parameter(s) of a flowgraph (e.g.
> overall processing time). In a normal way this optimizer should be
> run just once to determine the optimum parameters that will be used
> subsequently. If we see the problem to solve from a general
> perspective the optimizer would fall in the category of
> multi-objective optimization which has a numerous solutions and has
> been thoroughly discussed in the academia and industry (gaming is
> usualy doing multi-bjective optimization through AI). Another
> real-life example would be the optimizer in the 4Nec2 antenna
> simulation program that uses AI to optimize the antenna when a set
> of objectives (variables) is set by the user, e.g. minimum SWR, Z
> close to a value, etc.
> In my opinion gnuradio will really benefit from such an optimizer
> as the values of block parameters can provide quite different end
> results.
> Not sure if this can be part of your GSOC project but I thought it
> worth mentioning to you and gnuradio users on this list. Maybe can
> be part of the next GSOC.
> Thanks, Bogdan
> On Thursday, May 22, 2014 7:49 PM, Marcus Müller
> <address@hidden> wrote:
> Hi, GR community!
> I was elected to do a Google Summer of Code project. Thanks for
> all the constructive feedback on my proposal, and all the support,
> ideas and hints I got the last weeks!
> As I just finished setting up my blog, I'm now happy to announce
> the beginning of the GNU Radio Measurement Toolbox.
> Its purposes are basically two-fold: 1. Ease the process of
> gathering data through changing flowgraph characteristics to get
> things like BER curves out of GNU Radio, and 2. Help optimizing GNU
> Radio and VOLK by offering the same automated data gathering for
> performance data.
> This covers generating a few measurement blocks, writing a
> framework to let developers run their flowgraphs through a
> pre-defined set of parametrizations, evaluating performance
> counters, dealing with the gathered data, visualization and
> automated task distribution.
> To not bore you to death here on the mailing list, I've made an
> introductory blog entry [1]. You may find it on
> http://gsoc.hostalia.de
> Then, there will be code; you will find that on my github page
> [2].
> Looking forward to a load of criticism, and even more fun hacking,
> Greetings, Marcus
> [1]
> http://gsoc.hostalia.de/posts/a-measurement-toolbox-for-gnu-radio-my-google-summer-of-code-project.html
>  _______________________________________________ Discuss-gnuradio
> mailing list address@hidden
> https://lists.gnu.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss-gnuradio
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