POWER9 XIVE interrupt controller

The POWER9 processor comes with a new interrupt controller architecture, called XIVE as “eXternal Interrupt Virtualization Engine”.

Compared to the previous architecture, the main characteristics of XIVE are to support a larger number of interrupt sources and to deliver interrupts directly to virtual processors without hypervisor assistance. This removes the context switches required for the delivery process.

XIVE architecture

The XIVE IC is composed of three sub-engines, each taking care of a processing layer of external interrupts:

  • Interrupt Virtualization Source Engine (IVSE), or Source Controller (SC). These are found in PCI PHBs, in the Processor Service Interface (PSI) host bridge Controller, but also inside the main controller for the core IPIs and other sub-chips (NX, CAP, NPU) of the chip/processor. They are configured to feed the IVRE with events.
  • Interrupt Virtualization Routing Engine (IVRE) or Virtualization Controller (VC). It handles event coalescing and perform interrupt routing by matching an event source number with an Event Notification Descriptor (END).
  • Interrupt Virtualization Presentation Engine (IVPE) or Presentation Controller (PC). It maintains the interrupt context state of each thread and handles the delivery of the external interrupt to the thread.
            XIVE Interrupt Controller
            +------------------------------------+      IPIs
            | +---------+ +---------+ +--------+ |    +-------+
            | |IVRE     | |Common Q | |IVPE    |----> | CORES |
            | |     esb | |         | |        |----> |       |
            | |     eas | |  Bridge | |   tctx |----> |       |
            | |SC   end | |         | |    nvt | |    |       |
+------+    | +---------+ +----+----+ +--------+ |    +-+-+-+-+
| RAM  |    +------------------|-----------------+      | | |
|      |                       |                        | | |
|      |                       |                        | | |
|      |  +--------------------v------------------------v-v-v--+    other
|      <--+                     Power Bus                      +--> chips
|  esb |  +---------+-----------------------+------------------+
|  eas |            |                       |
|  end |         +--|------+                |
|  nvt |       +----+----+ |           +----+----+
+------+       |IVSE     | |           |IVSE     |
               |         | |           |         |
               | PQ-bits | |           | PQ-bits |
               | local   |-+           |  in VC  |
               +---------+             +---------+
                  PCIe                 NX,NPU,CAPI

PQ-bits: 2 bits source state machine (P:pending Q:queued)
esb: Event State Buffer (Array of PQ bits in an IVSE)
eas: Event Assignment Structure
end: Event Notification Descriptor
nvt: Notification Virtual Target
tctx: Thread interrupt Context registers

XIVE internal tables

Each of the sub-engines uses a set of tables to redirect interrupts from event sources to CPU threads.

User or O/S                             |  EQ   |
    or                          +------>|entries|
Hypervisor                      |       |  ..   |
  Memory                        |       +-------+
                                |           ^
                                |           |
                                |           |
Hypervisor      +------+    +---+--+    +---+--+   +------+
  Memory        | ESB  |    | EAT  |    | ENDT |   | NVTT |
 (skiboot)      +----+-+    +----+-+    +----+-+   +------+
                  ^  |        ^  |        ^  |       ^
                  |  |        |  |        |  |       |
                  |  |        |  |        |  |       |
                  |  |        |  |        |  |       |
             +----|--|--------|--|--------|--|-+   +-|-----+    +------+
             |    |  |        |  |        |  | |   | | tctx|    |Thread|
 IPI or   ---+    +  v        +  v        +  v |---| +  .. |----->     |
HW events    |                                 |   |       |    |      |
             |             IVRE                |   | IVPE  |    +------+
             +---------------------------------+   +-------+

The IVSE have a 2-bits state machine, P for pending and Q for queued, for each source that allows events to be triggered. They are stored in an Event State Buffer (ESB) array and can be controlled by MMIOs.

If the event is let through, the IVRE looks up in the Event Assignment Structure (EAS) table for an Event Notification Descriptor (END) configured for the source. Each Event Notification Descriptor defines a notification path to a CPU and an in-memory Event Queue, in which will be enqueued an EQ data for the O/S to pull.

The IVPE determines if a Notification Virtual Target (NVT) can handle the event by scanning the thread contexts of the VCPUs dispatched on the processor HW threads. It maintains the interrupt context state of each thread in a NVT table.

XIVE thread interrupt context

The XIVE presenter can generate four different exceptions to its HW threads:

  • hypervisor exception
  • O/S exception
  • Event-Based Branch (user level)
  • msgsnd (doorbell)

Each exception has a state independent from the others called a Thread Interrupt Management context. This context is a set of registers which lets the thread handle priority management and interrupt acknowledgment among other things. The most important ones being :

  • Interrupt Priority Register (PIPR)
  • Interrupt Pending Buffer (IPB)
  • Current Processor Priority (CPPR)
  • Notification Source Register (NSR)


The Thread Interrupt Management registers are accessible through a specific MMIO region, called the Thread Interrupt Management Area (TIMA), four aligned pages, each exposing a different view of the registers. First page (page address ending in 0b00) gives access to the entire context and is reserved for the ring 0 view for the physical thread context. The second (page address ending in 0b01) is for the hypervisor, ring 1 view. The third (page address ending in 0b10) is for the operating system, ring 2 view. The fourth (page address ending in 0b11) is for user level, ring 3 view.

Interrupt flow from an O/S perspective

After an event data has been enqueued in the O/S Event Queue, the IVPE raises the bit corresponding to the priority of the pending interrupt in the register IBP (Interrupt Pending Buffer) to indicate that an event is pending in one of the 8 priority queues. The Pending Interrupt Priority Register (PIPR) is also updated using the IPB. This register represent the priority of the most favored pending notification.

The PIPR is then compared to the Current Processor Priority Register (CPPR). If it is more favored (numerically less than), the CPU interrupt line is raised and the EO bit of the Notification Source Register (NSR) is updated to notify the presence of an exception for the O/S. The O/S acknowledges the interrupt with a special load in the Thread Interrupt Management Area.

The O/S handles the interrupt and when done, performs an EOI using a MMIO operation on the ESB management page of the associate source.

Overview of the QEMU models for XIVE

The XiveSource models the IVSE in general, internal and external. It handles the source ESBs and the MMIO interface to control them.

The XiveNotifier is a small helper interface interconnecting the XiveSource to the XiveRouter.

The XiveRouter is an abstract model acting as a combined IVRE and IVPE. It routes event notifications using the EAS and END tables to the IVPE sub-engine which does a CAM scan to find a CPU to deliver the exception. Storage should be provided by the inheriting classes.

XiveEnDSource is a special source object. It exposes the END ESB MMIOs of the Event Queues which are used for coalescing event notifications and for escalation. Not used on the field, only to sync the EQ cache in OPAL.

Finally, the XiveTCTX contains the interrupt state context of a thread, four sets of registers, one for each exception that can be delivered to a CPU. These contexts are scanned by the IVPE to find a matching VP when a notification is triggered. It also models the Thread Interrupt Management Area (TIMA), which exposes the thread context registers to the CPU for interrupt management.