Denis Bakhvalov

MacroFusion in Intel CPUs.

Categories: microarchitecture

23 Feb 2018


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In my previous post I wrote about MicroFusion which is the thing that happens when multiple uops from the same assembly instruction are fused into one. Another interesting feature of Intel Architecture (IA) that was introduced in Core2 and Nehalem architectures is MacroFusion. It names the situation when uops from different assembly instruction fuse together into one uops.

Description of it can be found in microarchitecture manual by Agner Fog:

The decoders will fuse arithmetic or logic instruction with a subsequent conditional jump instruction into a single compute-and-branch µop in certain cases. The compute-and-branch µop is not split in two at the execution units but executed as a single µop by the branch unit. This means that macro-op fusion saves bandwidth in all stages of the pipeline from decoding to retirement.


dec rdi
jnz .loop

There is not much useful work done inside this assembly, but it it the easiest example of MacroFusion. We just decrement rdi on each iteration and when it reaches 0, just exit the loop and return.

As before I did my experiments on Ivy Bridge processor using uarch-bench tool:

dec + jnz           1.02     2.00                   1.00                        1.00

The counters I mentioned above:

  • UOPS_RETIRED.RETIRE_SLOTS - Counts the number of retirement slots used each cycle. (fused domain)
  • UOPS_RETIRED.ALL - Counts the number of micro-ops retired. (unfused domain)

You can find more detailed description of them in my MicroFusion post.

As we can see that the number of instructions retired at each cycle is 2. But they are fused in the decoders into one uop, which is executed as fused. We can state this because number of uops retired is the same in fused and unfused domains.


There is number of limitations which varies across different architectures. For example, if you put nop in between it will break MacroFusion:

dec rdi
jnz .loop


dec + nop + jnz     1.02     3.00                   3.00                        3.00

Here we can see that no MacroFusion happens in this case. This limitation is valid even for Skylake architecture. I will quote Agner here:

The programmer should keep fuseable arithmetic instructions together with a subsequent conditional jump rather than scheduling other instructions in-between.

I will not mention other limitations, it’s best to read about them in microarchitecture manual (just search for MacroFusion).

Micro + Macro Fusion.

It is possible to have micro-op and macro-op fusion at the same time:

add rsi, 4
cmp DWORD [rsi], edi
jnz .loop

This code is searching for a value edi in an array that is indexed by rsi. I’m calling this assembly function like that:

int a[1024];
for (int i = 0; i < 1024; ++i)
  a[i] = i;
// according to x86 calling conventions first two arguments 
// will land in rdi and rsi respectively.
benchmark_func(1024, a);

In this example cmp instruction effectively does a load and compare operations, but due to Microfusion those uops are fused into one. Moreover, this uop is macro-fused with jnz instruction.

micro + macro       1.10     3.00                   2.00                        3.00

Here we can see that we have 2 uop in fused domain: inc and micro-macro-fused. But later this micro-macro-fused uop was split at the execution unit, resulting in total 3 uops in unfused domain.

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