This VivioJS animation is designed to help you understand the write-through cache coherency protocol.

A multiprocessor system is depicted comprising main memory, 3 CPUs and their associated caches. Main memory consists of 4 locations a0, a1, a2 and a3. The caches are direct mapped and contain two sets - addresses a0 and a2 map to set 0 and a1 and a3 to set 1.

NB: in order to simplify this animation, the size of a cache line and that of a CPU read/write operation are identical.

No canvas support
NB: click on diagram to activate Vivio animation

Each CPU contains buttons which initiate read or write transactions on the specified memory location. A "CPU write" writes an incrementing value (initially 1) to "memory".

The idea is to press the buttons and see if you can follow the actions and state transitions which occur. It is possible to introduce bugs into the animation by pressing the "bug free" button in the bottom right hand corner. See if you can find out just exactly what the bugs are!

The direction of the traffic on the address and data busses are indicated by blue and red arrows respectively. The cache lines and memory location involved in the transaction are coloured green. Stale memory locations are coloured gray.

A cache line can be in one of 2 states. INVALID: cache line NOT present in cache. VALID: cache line present in this cache and possibly other caches as well, all copies identical to copy in memory. All CPU writes are write-through.

Here's the state transition diagram for a cache line:

write through state transition diagram

The animation can be reset by pressing the "reset" button in the bottom right hand corner and this help information is displayed by pressing the "help" button.

Sample sequence to try [from RESET]

1 CPU0: read a0 CPU0 reads a0 from memory - state V
2 CPU0: read a0 CPU0 reads a0 from cache - state V
3 CPU1: read a0 CPU1 reads a0 from memory - state V
4 CPU2: read a0 CPU2 reads a0 from memory - state V
5 CPU0: write a0 CPU0 updates a0 in cache and writes through to memory, other caches invalidate their copies of a0 [CPU1 and CPU2] - state V
6 CPU0: write a0 CPU0 updates a0 in cache and writes through to memory, other caches invalidate their copies of a0 [none] - state V
7 CPU1: read a0 CPU1 reads a0 from memory - state V