path: root/Documentation/robust-futexes.txt
diff options
authorIngo Molnar <mingo@elte.hu>2006-03-27 01:16:23 -0800
committerLinus Torvalds <torvalds@g5.osdl.org>2006-03-27 08:44:49 -0800
commit2eec9ad91f71a3dbacece5c4fb5adc09fad53a96 (patch)
tree4e4e9373c6d3e2b2d0d0e18d563fbf7d1faea52e /Documentation/robust-futexes.txt
parent0771dfefc9e538f077d0b43b6dec19a5a67d0e70 (diff)
[PATCH] lightweight robust futexes: docs
Add robust-futex documentation. Signed-off-by: Ingo Molnar <mingo@elte.hu> Signed-off-by: Andrew Morton <akpm@osdl.org> Signed-off-by: Linus Torvalds <torvalds@osdl.org>
Diffstat (limited to 'Documentation/robust-futexes.txt')
1 files changed, 218 insertions, 0 deletions
diff --git a/Documentation/robust-futexes.txt b/Documentation/robust-futexes.txt
new file mode 100644
index 000000000000..7aecc67b1361
--- /dev/null
+++ b/Documentation/robust-futexes.txt
@@ -0,0 +1,218 @@
+Started by: Ingo Molnar <mingo@redhat.com>
+what are robust futexes? To answer that, we first need to understand
+what futexes are: normal futexes are special types of locks that in the
+noncontended case can be acquired/released from userspace without having
+to enter the kernel.
+A futex is in essence a user-space address, e.g. a 32-bit lock variable
+field. If userspace notices contention (the lock is already owned and
+someone else wants to grab it too) then the lock is marked with a value
+that says "there's a waiter pending", and the sys_futex(FUTEX_WAIT)
+syscall is used to wait for the other guy to release it. The kernel
+creates a 'futex queue' internally, so that it can later on match up the
+waiter with the waker - without them having to know about each other.
+When the owner thread releases the futex, it notices (via the variable
+value) that there were waiter(s) pending, and does the
+sys_futex(FUTEX_WAKE) syscall to wake them up. Once all waiters have
+taken and released the lock, the futex is again back to 'uncontended'
+state, and there's no in-kernel state associated with it. The kernel
+completely forgets that there ever was a futex at that address. This
+method makes futexes very lightweight and scalable.
+"Robustness" is about dealing with crashes while holding a lock: if a
+process exits prematurely while holding a pthread_mutex_t lock that is
+also shared with some other process (e.g. yum segfaults while holding a
+pthread_mutex_t, or yum is kill -9-ed), then waiters for that lock need
+to be notified that the last owner of the lock exited in some irregular
+To solve such types of problems, "robust mutex" userspace APIs were
+created: pthread_mutex_lock() returns an error value if the owner exits
+prematurely - and the new owner can decide whether the data protected by
+the lock can be recovered safely.
+There is a big conceptual problem with futex based mutexes though: it is
+the kernel that destroys the owner task (e.g. due to a SEGFAULT), but
+the kernel cannot help with the cleanup: if there is no 'futex queue'
+(and in most cases there is none, futexes being fast lightweight locks)
+then the kernel has no information to clean up after the held lock!
+Userspace has no chance to clean up after the lock either - userspace is
+the one that crashes, so it has no opportunity to clean up. Catch-22.
+In practice, when e.g. yum is kill -9-ed (or segfaults), a system reboot
+is needed to release that futex based lock. This is one of the leading
+bugreports against yum.
+To solve this problem, the traditional approach was to extend the vma
+(virtual memory area descriptor) concept to have a notion of 'pending
+robust futexes attached to this area'. This approach requires 3 new
+syscall variants to sys_futex(): FUTEX_REGISTER, FUTEX_DEREGISTER and
+FUTEX_RECOVER. At do_exit() time, all vmas are searched to see whether
+they have a robust_head set. This approach has two fundamental problems
+ - it has quite complex locking and race scenarios. The vma-based
+ approach had been pending for years, but they are still not completely
+ reliable.
+ - they have to scan _every_ vma at sys_exit() time, per thread!
+The second disadvantage is a real killer: pthread_exit() takes around 1
+microsecond on Linux, but with thousands (or tens of thousands) of vmas
+every pthread_exit() takes a millisecond or more, also totally
+destroying the CPU's L1 and L2 caches!
+This is very much noticeable even for normal process sys_exit_group()
+calls: the kernel has to do the vma scanning unconditionally! (this is
+because the kernel has no knowledge about how many robust futexes there
+are to be cleaned up, because a robust futex might have been registered
+in another task, and the futex variable might have been simply mmap()-ed
+into this process's address space).
+This huge overhead forced the creation of CONFIG_FUTEX_ROBUST so that
+normal kernels can turn it off, but worse than that: the overhead makes
+robust futexes impractical for any type of generic Linux distribution.
+So something had to be done.
+New approach to robust futexes
+At the heart of this new approach there is a per-thread private list of
+robust locks that userspace is holding (maintained by glibc) - which
+userspace list is registered with the kernel via a new syscall [this
+registration happens at most once per thread lifetime]. At do_exit()
+time, the kernel checks this user-space list: are there any robust futex
+locks to be cleaned up?
+In the common case, at do_exit() time, there is no list registered, so
+the cost of robust futexes is just a simple current->robust_list != NULL
+comparison. If the thread has registered a list, then normally the list
+is empty. If the thread/process crashed or terminated in some incorrect
+way then the list might be non-empty: in this case the kernel carefully
+walks the list [not trusting it], and marks all locks that are owned by
+this thread with the FUTEX_OWNER_DEAD bit, and wakes up one waiter (if
+The list is guaranteed to be private and per-thread at do_exit() time,
+so it can be accessed by the kernel in a lockless way.
+There is one race possible though: since adding to and removing from the
+list is done after the futex is acquired by glibc, there is a few
+instructions window for the thread (or process) to die there, leaving
+the futex hung. To protect against this possibility, userspace (glibc)
+also maintains a simple per-thread 'list_op_pending' field, to allow the
+kernel to clean up if the thread dies after acquiring the lock, but just
+before it could have added itself to the list. Glibc sets this
+list_op_pending field before it tries to acquire the futex, and clears
+it after the list-add (or list-remove) has finished.
+That's all that is needed - all the rest of robust-futex cleanup is done
+in userspace [just like with the previous patches].
+Ulrich Drepper has implemented the necessary glibc support for this new
+mechanism, which fully enables robust mutexes.
+Key differences of this userspace-list based approach, compared to the
+vma based method:
+ - it's much, much faster: at thread exit time, there's no need to loop
+ over every vma (!), which the VM-based method has to do. Only a very
+ simple 'is the list empty' op is done.
+ - no VM changes are needed - 'struct address_space' is left alone.
+ - no registration of individual locks is needed: robust mutexes dont
+ need any extra per-lock syscalls. Robust mutexes thus become a very
+ lightweight primitive - so they dont force the application designer
+ to do a hard choice between performance and robustness - robust
+ mutexes are just as fast.
+ - no per-lock kernel allocation happens.
+ - no resource limits are needed.
+ - no kernel-space recovery call (FUTEX_RECOVER) is needed.
+ - the implementation and the locking is "obvious", and there are no
+ interactions with the VM.
+I have benchmarked the time needed for the kernel to process a list of 1
+million (!) held locks, using the new method [on a 2GHz CPU]:
+ - with FUTEX_WAIT set [contended mutex]: 130 msecs
+ - without FUTEX_WAIT set [uncontended mutex]: 30 msecs
+I have also measured an approach where glibc does the lock notification
+[which it currently does for !pshared robust mutexes], and that took 256
+msecs - clearly slower, due to the 1 million FUTEX_WAKE syscalls
+userspace had to do.
+(1 million held locks are unheard of - we expect at most a handful of
+locks to be held at a time. Nevertheless it's nice to know that this
+approach scales nicely.)
+Implementation details
+The patch adds two new syscalls: one to register the userspace list, and
+one to query the registered list pointer:
+ asmlinkage long
+ sys_set_robust_list(struct robust_list_head __user *head,
+ size_t len);
+ asmlinkage long
+ sys_get_robust_list(int pid, struct robust_list_head __user **head_ptr,
+ size_t __user *len_ptr);
+List registration is very fast: the pointer is simply stored in
+current->robust_list. [Note that in the future, if robust futexes become
+widespread, we could extend sys_clone() to register a robust-list head
+for new threads, without the need of another syscall.]
+So there is virtually zero overhead for tasks not using robust futexes,
+and even for robust futex users, there is only one extra syscall per
+thread lifetime, and the cleanup operation, if it happens, is fast and
+straightforward. The kernel doesnt have any internal distinction between
+robust and normal futexes.
+If a futex is found to be held at exit time, the kernel sets the
+following bit of the futex word:
+ #define FUTEX_OWNER_DIED 0x40000000
+and wakes up the next futex waiter (if any). User-space does the rest of
+the cleanup.
+Otherwise, robust futexes are acquired by glibc by putting the TID into
+the futex field atomically. Waiters set the FUTEX_WAITERS bit:
+ #define FUTEX_WAITERS 0x80000000
+and the remaining bits are for the TID.
+Testing, architecture support
+i've tested the new syscalls on x86 and x86_64, and have made sure the
+parsing of the userspace list is robust [ ;-) ] even if the list is
+deliberately corrupted.
+i386 and x86_64 syscalls are wired up at the moment, and Ulrich has
+tested the new glibc code (on x86_64 and i386), and it works for his
+robust-mutex testcases.
+All other architectures should build just fine too - but they wont have
+the new syscalls yet.
+Architectures need to implement the new futex_atomic_cmpxchg_inuser()
+inline function before writing up the syscalls (that function returns
+-ENOSYS right now).

Privacy Policy