Isolate the CPU Cores to Enhance Application Performance

StarlingX supports running the most critical low-latency applications on host CPUs which are completely isolated from the host process scheduler.

This allows you to customize Kubernetes CPU management when policy is set to static so that low-latency applications run with optimal efficiency.

The following restriction applies when using application-isolated cores:

  • There must be at least one platform and one application core on each host.

For example:

~(keystone_admin)]$ system host-lock worker-1
~(keystone_admin)]$ system host-cpu-modify  -f platform -p0 1 worker-1
~(keystone_admin)]$ system host-cpu-modify  -f application-isolated -p0 15 worker-1
~(keystone_admin)]$ system host-cpu-modify  -f application-isolated -p1 15 worker-1
~(keystone_admin)]$ system host-unlock worker-1

All SMT siblings (hyperthreads, if enabled) on a core will have the same assigned function. On host boot, any CPUs designated as isolated will be specified as part of the isolcpus kernel boot argument, which will isolate them from the process scheduler.

The use of application-isolated cores is only applicable when using the static Kubernetes CPU Manager policy. For more information, see Kubernetes CPU Manager Policies.


StarlingX isolcpus allocation is SMT-aware. If a container requests multiple isolcpus it will provide SMT siblings to the extent possible. If an odd number of isolcpus are requested it will provide as many SMT siblings as are available, then allocate singletons whose sibling has already been allocated, then allocate one sibling from a free SMT sibling pair. If hyperthreading is enabled in the BIOS then containers should request isolcpus in pairs. If all containers on a system do this then they will never have different containers being allocated SMT siblings from the same core.

When using the static CPU manager policy before increasing the number of platform CPUs or changing isolated CPUs to application CPUs on a host, ensure that no pods on the host are making use of any isolated CPUs that will be affected. Otherwise, the pod(s) will transition to a Topology Affinity Error state. Although not strictly necessary, the simplest way to do this on systems other than AIO-SX is to administratively lock the host, causing all the pods to be restarted on an alternate host, before changing CPU assigned functions. On AIO-SX systems, you must explicitly delete the pods.

This advanced feature introduces changes in StarlingX Kubernetes relative to standard Kubernetes.

Kubernetes will report a new resource for each worker node. This corresponds to the application-isolated CPUs. Pods in the Best-effort or Burstable QoS class may specify some number of resources and the pod will be scheduled on a host (and possibly NUMA node depending on topology manager policy) with sufficient application-isolated cores available, and the container requesting the resource will be affined (and restricted) to those CPUs via cgroups.

Pods in the Guaranteed QoS class should not specify resources as they will be allocated but not used. If there are multiple processes within one container, they can be individually affined to separate isolated CPUs if the container requests multiple resources. This is highly recommended as the Linux kernel does not load balance across application-isolated CPUs. Start-up code in the container can determine the available CPUs by running sched_getaffinity() command, or by parsing /sys/fs/cgroup/cpuset/cpuset.cpus within the container.

Isolated CPUs can be identified in the container by looking for files such as /dev/cpu/<X> where <X> is a number, or by referencing /sys/devices/system/cpu/isolated against the CPUs associated with this container.

Isolating CPU Cores from Kernel Noise

For better performance of latency-sensitive applications, and to improve energy efficiency on idle CPUs, it is possible to isolate CPU cores from kernel noise with the nohz_full kernel parameter. This configuration is supported in both low-latency and standard kernel types. However, for standard kernels, it is possible to disable the CPU isolation by assigning a label to the target host with worker sub function.

To summarize, the configuration is supported by default in workers of any kernel type, but for standard kernels, you can enable the disable-nohz-full label to disable it.

Use the procedure below to disable the nohz_full parameter on standard kernels.


For VirtualBox environments, you must add the disable-nohz-full=enabled label prior to host unlock.


  1. Lock the host.

    ~(keystone_admin)]$ system host-lock <worker>
  2. Assign the disable-nohz-full label.

    ~(keystone_admin)]$ system host-label-assign <worker> disable-nohz-full=enabled
  3. Unlock the host.

    ~(keystone_admin)]$ system host-unlock <worker>