Getting Started

Hardware-managed cache coherency is a fundamental technology to scale system performance and enable heterogeneous processing. Hardware cache coherency is a requirement to enable big.LITTLE processing that allows the operating system to choose the right processor for the right job. The Arm CoreLink CCI family of products has been designed into many applications including mobile, tablet, digital TV, set top box, automotive, and low-cost infrastructure. In addition to full coherency for processor clusters with AMBA 4 ACE, the CCI family is also used to provide high performance I/O coherency for accelerators and interfaces using AMBA 4 ACE-Lite.

CoreLink CI-700

CoreLink CI-700

Meets demanding Total Compute use-cases

  • AAA gaming, 120Hz frame rates and high dynamic range (HDR) high frame rate video

Enables the latest architectural features

  • AMBA CHI issue E protocol aligns with new DSU
  • MTE, Memory Partitioning and Monitoring (MPAM)

Ease of implementation speeds time to market

  • Flexible and fast configuration
  • Verified together with Cortex-A CPUs, Mali GPUs and Ethos NPUs

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CoreLink CCI-550

  • Full coherency with up to six clusters including big.LITTLE and coherent accelerators
  • Fully coherent GPU support to enable heterogeneous processing with shared virtual memory
  • Higher performance and power efficiency with integrated snoop filter

CoreLink CCI-500

  • Full coherency with up to four clusters including big.LITTLE and coherent accelerators
  • Higher performance and power efficiency with integrated snoop filter

CoreLink CCI-400

  • Full coherency with up to two clusters, essential for big.LITTLE
  • Smallest cache coherent interconnect

Product Comparison CCI-550 to CCI-400

CoreLink CCI-550

CoreLink CCI-500

CoreLink CCI-400

Summary Highly configurable ACE interconnect supporting up to 6 clusters Highly configurable ACE interconnect supporting up to 4 clusters Smallest area, 2 cluster coherent interconnect
Fully coherentACE Slave Interfaces
1-6 1-4 2
 Up to 24 cores Up to 16 cores
Up to 8 cores
IO CoherentACE-Lite Slave Interfaces
(maximum 7 ACE and ACE-Lite slave ports)
(maximum 7 ACE and ACE-Lite slave ports)
System and DMC Master Interfaces
1-6 memory interfaces
1-3 system
1-4 memory interfaces
1-2 system
1-2 memory interfaces
1 system
Memory map
32-48 bit Physical address
40/44/48 bit DVM
32-44 bit Physical address
40/44/48bit DVM
40 bit Physical address
44 bit DVM
Coherency and Snoop Filter
Integrated snoop filter maintains directory of processor cache contents and reduces CPU snoops Integrated snoop filter maintains directory of processor cache contents and reduces CPU snoops
Broadcast snoop coherency
QoS Integrated QoS mechanisms
Power, Area, Frequency Contact Arm for more information

Hardware Cache Coherency Introduction

Coherency is about ensuring all processors, or bus masters in the system see the same view of memory. For example, if you have a processor which is creating a data structure then passing it to a DMA engine to move, both the processor and DMA must see the same data. If that data were cached in the CPU and the DMA reads from external DDR, the DMA will read old, stale data.

There are three mechanisms to maintain coherency:

  • Disable caching is the simplest mechanism but can cost significant CPU performance. To get the highest performance, processors are pipelined to run at high frequency, and to run from caches that offer a very low latency. Caching data that is accessed multiple times increases performance significantly and reduces DRAM accesses and power. Marking data as “non-cached” could impact performance and power.
  • Software managed coherency is the traditional solution to the data sharing problem. The software, usually device drivers, must clean or flush dirty data from caches, and invalidate old data to enable sharing with other processors or masters in the system. This takes processor cycles, bus bandwidth, and power. 
  • Hardware managed coherency offers an alternative to simplify software. With this solution, any cached data marked "shared" is always automatically up to date. All processors and bus masters in that sharing domain see the exact same value. 

Extending hardware coherency to the system requires a coherent bus protocol, and in 2011 Arm released the AMBA 4 ACE specification which introduced the AXI Coherency Extensions on top of the popular AXI protocol. The full ACE interface allows hardware coherency between processor clusters and allows an SMP operating system to extend to more cores. With the example of two clusters, any shared access to memory can snoop into the other cluster’s caches to see if the data is already on chip. If not, it is fetched from external memory (DDR). The AMBA 4 ACE-Lite interface is designed for IO (or one-way) coherent system masters like DMA engines, network interfaces and GPUs. These devices might not have any caches of their own, but they can read shared data from the ACE processors. Alternatively, they might have caches but not cache shareable data. While hardware coherency can add some complexity to the interconnect and processors, it massively simplifies the software and enables applications that would not be possible with software coherency. An example being big.LITTLE Global Task Scheduling.

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