Re: [ANNOUNCE] Native POSIX Thread Library 0.1

From: Andy Isaacson (
Date: Mon Sep 23 2002 - 18:57:56 EST

I hate big CC lists like this, but I don't know that everyone will see
this if I don't keep the CC list. Sigh.

On Mon, Sep 23, 2002 at 10:36:28PM +0200, Ingo Molnar wrote:
> On Mon, 23 Sep 2002, Peter Waechtler wrote:
> > Getting into kernel is not the same as a context switch. Return EAGAIN
> > or EWOULDBLOCK is definetly _not_ causing a context switch.
> this is a common misunderstanding. When switching from thread to thread in
> the 1:1 model, most of the cost comes from entering/exiting the kernel. So
> *once* we are in the kernel the cheapest way is not to piggyback to
> userspace to do some userspace context-switch - but to do it right in the
> kernel.
> in the kernel we can do much higher quality scheduling decisions than in
> userspace. SMP affinity, various statistics are right available in
> kernel-space - userspace does not have any of that. Not to talk about
> preemption.

Excellent points, Ingo. An alternative that I haven't seen considered
is the M:N threading model that NetBSD is adopting, called Scheduler
Activations. The paper makes excellent reading.

One advantage of a SA-style system is that the kernel automatically and
very cleanly has a lot of information about the job as a single unit,
for purposes such as signal delivery, scheduling decisions, (and if it
came to that) paging/swapping. The original Linus-dogma (as I
understood it -- I may well be misrepresenting things here) is that "a
thread is a process, and that's all there is to it". This has a lovely
clarity, but it ignores the fact that there are times when it's
*important* that the kernel know that "these N threads belong to a
single job". It appears that the NPTL work is creating a new
"collection-of-threads" object, which will fulfill the role I mention
above... and this isn't a lot different from the end result of Nathan
Williams' SA work.

Another advantage of keeping a "process" concept is that things like CSA
(Compatible System Accounting, nee Cray System Accounting) need to add
some overhead to process startup/teardown. If a "thread" can be created
without creating a new "process", this overhead is not needlessly
present at thread-startup time.

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