No NMI? No Problem! – Implementing Arm64 Pseudo-NMI

As the name would suggest, a Non-Maskable Interrupt (NMI) is an interrupt-like feature that is unaffected by the disabling of classic interrupts. In Linux, NMIs are involved in some features such as performance event monitoring, hard-lockup detector, on demand state dumping, etc… Their potential to fire when least expected can fill the most seasoned kernel hackers with dread.

AArch64 (aka arm64 in the Linux tree) does not provide architected NMIs, a consequence being that features benefiting from NMIs see their use limited on AArch64. However, the Arm Generic Interrupt Controller (GIC) supports interrupt prioritization and masking, which, among other things, provides a way to control whether or not a set of interrupts can be signaled to a CPU.

This talk will cover how, using the GIC interrupt priorities, we provide a way to configure some interrupts to behave in an NMI-like manner on AArch64. We’ll discuss the implementation, some of the complications that ensued and also some of the benefits obtained from it.

Julien Thierry, ARM