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gem5-Approxilyzer is an open-source framework for instruction level approximation and resiliency software. gem5-Approxilyzer provides a systematic way to identify instructions that exhibit first-order approximation potential. It can also identify silent data corruption (SDC) causing instructions in the presence of single-bit errors. gem5-Approxilyzer employs static and dynamic analysis, in addition to heuristics, to reduce the run-time of finding approximate instructions and SDC-causing instructions by 3-6x orders of magnitude.


If you use this work, please cite our paper published in the International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN) 2019 where we developed and evaluated gem5-Approxilyzer.

R. Venkatagiri, K. Ahmed, A. Mahmoud, S. Misailovic, D. Marinov, C. W. Fletcher, S. V. Adve, “gem5-Approxilyzer: An Open-Source Tool for Application-Level Soft Error Analysis”, International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks (DSN), 2019.

gem5-Approxilyzer Setup Instructions

  1. all dependencies for gem5 are required (see gem5 documentation) This includes the following:
  • gcc 4.8 or greater
  • python 2.7 or greater
  • SCons
  • SWIG 2.0.4 or greater
  • protobuf 2.1 or greater
  • M4

On Ubuntu, the following commands should cover all of the requirements:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install build-essential
sudo apt-get install scons
sudo apt-get install python-dev
sudo apt-get install swig
sudo apt-get install libprotobuf-dev python-protobuf protobuf-compiler libgoogle-perftools-dev
sudo apt-get install m4
  1. To build from the source code, go to the project's gem5 directory and run the following:
cd gem5
scons build/X86/ -j${NUM_PROCS}
scons build/X86/gem5.opt -j${NUM_PROCS}

Where ${NUM_PROCS} is the number of available CPU cores.

If interfacing with the simulator, build m5term by following gem5's documentation.

Downloading Disk Images

  1. Download sample gem5 disk images here Create the following directory structure, or modify the paths in gem5/configs/common/ /dist/m5/system/disks /dist/m5/system/binaries

How to use gem5-Approxilyzer

  1. Prepare your application. First, compile your application binaries with particular region-of-interest (ROI) indicators. In C/C++, this may look something like:
// ROI start
asm volatile("mov %rax,%rax");
// application code
// ROI end
asm volatile("mov %rbx,%rbx");

Once compiled, use objdump to disassemble the binary:

objdump -D -S ${BINARY_NAME} > ${BINARY_NAME}.dis

Note the PCs of the beginning and end of the ROI (${MAIN_START} and ${MAIN_END} in step 6). Additionally, ensure the application has an error quality metric that can be evaluated from its output. Refer to gem5/scripts/injections/ for an example, and insert the metric into that script.

Refer to gem5's documentation for adding applications to the gem5 disk image.

  1. In the project's root directory, run ./ to build additional directories and create the appropriate environment variable: APPROXGEM5. For any application being analyzed, make new directories by performing the following:
mkdir -p $APPROXGEM5/workloads/apps/x86/${APP_NAME}
mkdir -p $APPROXGEM5/workloads/checkpoint/x86/${APP_NAME}
  1. Go to the project's gem5 directory, and setup initial disk image checkpoints. If you are unfimiliar with this process, the following sample command starts up the disk image from scratch:
build/X86/ configs/example/ \
--disk-image=$APPROXGEM5/dist/m5/system/disks/${DISK_IMAGE_NAME}.img \

This will create an m5out directory, which will store any checkpoints currently created.

  1. Run your application within the simulator with the following command:
m5 checkpoint; [exec binary with args or run script]; m5 writefile [output filename]; m5 exit

IMPORTANT: if you are using the gem5-approxilyzer provided disk image, m5 writefile may not be the latest version. You can still use the above command, but replace m5 with /root/m5.

Note the checkpoint's tick number once exiting the simulation.

  1. Move the checkpoint from m5out to the corresponding app checkpoint directory:
mv $APPROXGEM5/gem5/m5out/ckpt.${CHECKPOINT_NUM} \

Symbollicaly link the output file generated from step 4 to setup the "golden" output:

cd $APPROXGEM5/workloads/x86/checkpoint/${APP_NAME}
ln -s ln -s $PWD/${APP_OUTPUT_FILE} $PWD/{APP_NAME}.output
  1. Parse the disassembly from step 1 to create an instruction database used for analysis:
cd $APPROXGEM5/gem5/scripts/relyzer
python $APPROXGEM5/workloads/x86/apps/${APP_DIS_FILE} \

Generate a gem5 trace of the application and use gem5-Approxilyzer scripts to simplify the trace:

cd $APPROXGEM5/gem5/scripts/relyzer
python ${app_name} ${MAIN_START} ${MAIN_END} x86
  1. Run Relyzer analysis on the application:
./ ${APP_NAME} x86 ${POP_SIZE}

Note that ${POP_SIZE} is optional, and by default it is set to 100. If you are analyzing larger apps, it is recommended to set ${POP_SIZE} to 95 or 99. This analysis may take several hours to complete depending on the size of the application.

Relyzer analysis will generate an injection list located at $APPROXGEM5/workloads/x86/apps/${APP_NAME}/${APP_NAME}_inj_list_${POP_SIZE}.txt.

  1. Perform error injection experiments with the following command:
cd $APPROXGEM5/gem5/scripts/injections

The ${APP_CKPT_NUM} should be set to 1 if no existing checkpoints are created and moved to the app's checkpoint directory from step 5. ${GOLDEN_OUTPUT} should be set to the symbolic link created from step 5. Injections may take a long time to complete.

  1. Combine all of the outcomes generated from step 8 and run gem5-Approxilyzer postprocessing analysis:
cd $APPROXGEM5/gem5/outputs/x86
cat ${APP_NAME}-* > ${APP_NAME}.outcomes_raw
cd $APPROXGEM5/gem5/scripts/relyzer
python ${APP_NAME} x86 

This will create the final outcome file of gem5-Approxilyzer analysis.


A Systematic Framework for Comprehensive and Automated Application-Level Soft Error Analysis



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