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Synchronization Primitives

Implementing Critical Sections

  • Two possible approaches. Don’t stop, or don’t enter.

  • On uniprocessors a single thread can prevent other threads from executing in a critical section by simply not being descheduled.

    • In the kernel we can do this by masking interrupts. No timer, no scheduler, no stopping.

    • In the multicore era this is only of historical interest. (This design pattern is usually broken.)

  • More generally we need a way to force other threads—potentially running on other cores—not to enter the critical section while one thread is inside. How do we do this?

Atomic Instructions

Software synchronization primitives utilize special hardware instructions guaranteed to be atomic across all cores:

  • Test-and-set: write a memory location and return its old value.

int testAndSet(int * target, int value) {
  oldvalue = *target;
  *target = value;
  return oldvalue;
}
  • Compare-and-swap: compare the contents of a memory location to a given value. If they are the same, set the variable to a new given value.

bool compareAndSwap(int * target, int compare, int newvalue) {
  if (*target == compare) {
    *target = newvalue;
    return 1;
  } else {
    return 0;
  }
}
  • Load-link and store-conditional: Load-link returns the value of a memory address, while the following store-conditional succeeds only if the value has not changed since the load-link.

y = 1;
__asm volatile(
    ".set push;"     /* save assembler mode */
    ".set mips32;"   /* allow MIPS32 instructions */
    ".set volatile;" /* avoid unwanted optimization */
    "ll %0, 0(%2);"  /*   x = *sd */
    "sc %1, 0(%2);"  /*   *sd = y; y = success? */
    ".set pop"       /* restore assembler mode */
    : "=r" (x), "+r" (y) : "r" (sd));
if (y == 0) {
  return 1;
}
  • Many processors provide either test and set or compare and swap.

  • On others equivalents can be implemented in software using other atomic hardware instructions.

The Bank Example: Test and Set

Let’s modify our earlier example to use a test and set:

void giveGWATheMoolah(account_t account, int largeAmount) {
  int gwaHas = get_balance(account);
  gwaHas = gwaHas + largeAmount;
  put_balance(account, gwaHas);
  notifyGWAThatHeIsRich(gwaHas);
  return;
}
+int payGWA = 0; // Shared variable for our test and set.

void giveGWATheMoolah(account_t account, int largeAmount) {
+ testAndSet(&payGWA, 1); # Set the test and set.
  int gwaHas = get_balance(account);
  gwaHas = gwaHas + largeAmount;
  put_balance(account, gwaHas);
+ testAndSet(&payGWA, 0); # Clear the test and set.
  notifyGWAThatHeIsRich(gwaHas);
  return;
}

Does this work? No! How do I tell if another thread has already set payGWA?

Let’s try again:

void giveGWATheMoolah(account_t account, int largeAmount) {
  int gwaHas = get_balance(account);
  gwaHas = gwaHas + largeAmount;
  put_balance(account, gwaHas);
  notifyGWAThatHeIsRich(gwaHas);
  return;
}
+int payGWA = 0; // Shared variable for our test and set.

void giveGWATheMoolah(account_t account, int largeAmount) {
+ if (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1) == 1) {
+   // But then what?
+ }
  int gwaHas = get_balance(account);
  gwaHas = gwaHas + largeAmount;
  put_balance(account, gwaHas);
+ testAndSet(&payGWA, 0); # Clear the test and set.
  notifyGWAThatHeIsRich(gwaHas);
  return;
}
  • But what should I do if the payGWA is set?

void giveGWATheMoolah(account_t account, int largeAmount) {
  int gwaHas = get_balance(account);
  gwaHas = gwaHas + largeAmount;
  put_balance(account, gwaHas);
  notifyGWAThatHeIsRich(gwaHas);
  return;
}
+int payGWA = 0; // Shared variable for our test and set.

void giveGWATheMoolah(account_t account, int largeAmount) {
+ while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1) == 1) {
+   ; // Test it again!
+ }
  int gwaHas = get_balance(account);
  gwaHas = gwaHas + largeAmount;
  put_balance(account, gwaHas);
+ testAndSet(&payGWA, 0); # Clear the test and set.
  notifyGWAThatHeIsRich(gwaHas);
  return;
}

Busy Waiting

A- Student B Student Balance

 

 

$1000

while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1));
int gwaHas = get_balance(account);

 

 

 

while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1));
while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1));
while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1));
while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1));
while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1));
while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1));
while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1));
while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1));

 

The Bank Example: Test and Set

int payGWA = 0; // Shared variable for our test and set.

void giveGWATheMoolah(account_t account, int largeAmount) {
  while (testAndSet(&payGWA, 1) == 1) {
   ; // Test it again!
  }
  int gwaHas = get_balance(account);
  gwaHas = gwaHas + largeAmount;
  put_balance(account, gwaHas);
  testAndSet(&payGWA, 0); # Clear the test and set.
  notifyGWAThatHeIsRich(gwaHas);
  return;
}
What are the problems with this approach?
  • Busy waiting: threads wait for the critical section by "pounding on the door", executing the TAS repeatedly.

  • Bad on a multicore system. Worse on a single core system! Busy waiting prevents the thread in the critical section from making progress!

Locks

Locks are a synchronization primitive used to implement critical sections.
  • Threads acquire a lock when entering a critical section.

  • Threads release a lock when leaving a critical section.

Spinlocks

What we have implemented today is known as a spinlock:
  • lock for the fact that it guards a critical section (we will have more to say about locks next time), and

  • spin describing the process of acquiring it.

Spinlocks are rarely used on their own to solve synchronization problems.

Spinlocks are commonly used to build more useful synchronization primitives.

More Bank Example

void giveGWATheMoolah(account_t account, int largeAmount) {
  int gwaHas = get_balance(account);
  gwaHas = gwaHas + largeAmount;
  put_balance(account, gwaHas);
  notifyGWAThatHeIsRich(gwaHas);
  return;
}
lock gwaWalletLock; // Need to initialize somewhere

void giveGWATheMoolah(account_t account, int largeAmount) {
+ lock_acquire(&gwaWalletLock);
  int gwaHas = get_balance(account);
  gwaHas = gwaHas + largeAmount;
  put_balance(account, gwaHas);
+ lock_release(&gwaWalletLock);
  notifyGWAThatHeIsRich(gwaHas);
  return;
}
What happens if we call lock_acquire() while another thread is in the critical section?
  • The thread acquiring the lock must wait until the thread holding the lock calls lock_release().

How To Wait

How do we wait?
  • Active (or busy) waiting: repeat some action until the lock is released.

  • Passive waiting: tell the kernel what we are waiting for, go to sleep, and rely on lock_release to awaken us.

Spinning v. Sleeping

There are cases where spinning is the right thing to do. When?
  • Only on multicore systems. Why?

    • On single core systems nothing can change unless we allow another thread to run!

  • If the critical section is short.

    • Balance the length of the critical section against the overhead of a context switch.

When to Spin

If the critical section is short:

sleeplocks

When to Sleep

If the critical section is long:

spinlocks

How to Sleep

The kernel provides functionality allowing kernel threads to sleep and wake on a key:
  • thread_sleep(key): "Hey kernel, I’m going to sleep, but please wake me up when key happens."

  • thread_wake(key): "Hey kernel, please wake up all (or one of) the threads who were waiting for key."

  • Similar functionality can be implemented in user space.

Thread Communication

  • Locks are designed to protect critical sections.

  • lock_release() can be considered a signal from the thread inside the critical section to other threads indicating that they can proceed.

    • In order to receive this signal a thread must be sleeping.

  • What about other kinds of signals that I might want to deliver?

    • The buffer has data in it.

    • Your child has exited.

Condition Variables

  • A condition variable is a signaling mechanism allowing threads to:

    • cv_wait until a condition is true, and

    • cv_notify other threads when the condition becomes true.

  • The condition is usually represented as some change to shared state.

    • The buffer has data in it: bufsize > 0.

    • cv_wait: notify me when the buffer has data in it.

    • cv_signal: I just put data in the buffer, so notify the threads that are waiting for the buffer to have data.

  • Condition variable can convey more information than locks about some change to the state of the world.

  • As an example, a buffer can be full, empty, or neither.

    • If the buffer is full, we can let threads withdraw but not add items.

    • If the buffer is empty, we can let threads add but not withdraw items.

    • If the buffer is neither full nor empty, we can let threads add and withdraw items.

  • We have three different buffer states (full, empty, or neither) and two different threads (producer, consumer).

Why are condition variables a synchronization mechanism?
  • Want to ensure that the condition does not change between checking it and deciding to wait!

Thread A Thread B
if (buffer_is_empty):

 

 

put(buffer)
notify(buffer)
sleep...

 

...forever

 


Created 2/17/2017
Updated 8/17/2017
Commit 4eceaab // History // View
Built 2/14/2017 @ 19:00 EDT