Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Computer Science


Computer Science

First Committee Member

Jisoo Yang

Second Committee Member

Ajoy Datta

Third Committee Member

Kazem Taghva

Fourth Committee Member

R. Jacob Baker

Number of Pages



Almost every processor supports Time Stamp Counter (TSC), which is a hardware register that increments its value every clock cycle. Due to its high resolution and accessibility, TSC is now widely used for a variety tasks that need time measurements such as wall clock, code benchmarking, or metering hardware usage for account billing.

However, if not carefully configured and interpreted, TSC-based time measurements can yield inaccurate readings. For instance, modern CPU may dynamically change its frequency or enter into low-power states. Also, time spent on scheduling events, system calls, page faults, etc. should be correctly accounted for. Even more complications arise when TSC measurements are done in virtual environments; virtual machines, on which TSC readings are taken, can be suspended, migrated, and scheduled on a machine with different clock rate and performance. In production virtualization systems, some management tasks are executed inside guests on behalf of the management system, effectively consuming end-user’s CPU time, which we believe should be excluded from end-user billing.

We argue that the main problem with current TSC is that its hardware semantic is too vague to serve as a multi-purpose time source. In this thesis, we propose an improved TSC design, called Caviar, to address most of the issues. Caviar extends existing TSC hardware interface by adding a control-register based configuration interface through which a system can set up secondary TSCs whose behavior should be correct when accessed in a localized execution context including virtualized environment.

We experimentally confirmed inaccurate readings with current TSC by conducting a series of TSC measurements on various x86 platforms, including virtualized cloud computing servers. We analyzed some of the results and argue that how our proposed solution can fix the problems. In conclusion, we believe that the simple interface of Caviar can solve most of current TSC complications, be implemented with minimal hardware cost, and be adopted easily by system software.


Computer Systems; Timekeeping in VM; Timestamp Counter; Timestamp Counter Issues; TSC for VMM; TSC Inaccuracy


Computer Sciences

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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