Re: [PATCH -tip] introduce sys_membarrier(): process-wide memorybarrier (v9)

From: Mathieu Desnoyers
Date: Thu Mar 04 2010 - 10:52:29 EST

* Ingo Molnar (mingo@xxxxxxx) wrote:
> * Mathieu Desnoyers <mathieu.desnoyers@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> > I am proposing this patch for the 2.6.34 merge window, as I think it is
> > ready for inclusion.
> It's a bit late for this merge window i think.

OK, no problem. Thanks for taking time to review the patch. See below for
response to your comments.

> > Here is an implementation of a new system call, sys_membarrier(), which
> > executes a memory barrier on all threads of the current process. It can be
> > used to distribute the cost of user-space memory barriers asymmetrically by
> > transforming pairs of memory barriers into pairs consisting of
> > sys_membarrier() and a compiler barrier. For synchronization primitives that
> > distinguish between read-side and write-side (e.g. userspace RCU, rwlocks),
> > the read-side can be accelerated significantly by moving the bulk of the
> > memory barrier overhead to the write-side.
> Why is this such a low level and still special-purpose facility?
> Synchronization facilities for high-performance threading may want to do a bit
> more than just execute a barrier instruction on another CPU that has a
> relevant thread running.

Yep, I'm aware of that.

> You cited signal based numbers:
> > (what we have now, with dynamic sys_membarrier check, expedited scheme)
> > memory barriers in reader: 907693804 reads, 817793 writes
> > sys_membarrier scheme: 4316818891 reads, 503790 writes
> >
> > (dynamic sys_membarrier check, non-expedited scheme)
> > memory barriers in reader: 907693804 reads, 817793 writes
> > sys_membarrier scheme: 8698725501 reads, 313 writes
> Much of that signal handler overhead is i think due to:
> - FPU/SSE context save/restore
> - the need to wake up, run and deschedule all threads

This second point hurts, especially if we have more threads than processors.

> Instead i'd suggest for you to try to implement user-space RCU speedups not
> via the new sys_membarrier() syscall, but via two new signal extensions:
> - SA_NOFPU: on x86 to skip the FPU/SSE save/restore, for such fast in/out special
> purpose signal handlers? (can whip up a quick patch for you if you want)

This could help.

> - SA_RUNNING: a way to signal only running threads - as a way for user-space
> based concurrency control mechanisms to deschedule running threads (or, like
> in your case, to implement barrier / garbage collection schemes).
> ( Note: to properly sync back you'll also need an sa_info field to tell
> target tasks how many tasks were woken up. That way a futex can be used
> as a semaphore to signal back to the issuing thread, and make it all
> properly event triggered and nicely scalable. Also, queued signals are a
> must for such a scheme. )

Ah, nice! I wondered how you'd propose to deal with that one. It was actually my
main problem: how to wait for all running threads to complete their execution.
This added sa_info count and futex usage will indeed deal with the problem. And
rt_sigqueueinfo() will ensure that we don't collapse multiple concurrent
requests for execution of the same signal. For syncing back, I think we can do
this without modifying sa_info. Simply passing a pointer to the counter to
increment in the sigval value to rt_sigqueueinfo() should do the trick.

> My estimation is that it will be _much_ faster than the naive signal based
> approach - maybe even quite comparable to an open-coded sys_membarrier():

Yes, especially given that your proposal permits to send all signals in in
"broadcast to all running threads" mode, in a single system call.

> - as most of the overhead in a real scenario ought to be the IPI sending and
> latency - not the syscall entry/exit. (with a signal approach we'd still go
> into target thread user-mode, so one more syscall exit+re-entry)
> - or for the common case where there are no other threads running, we are
> just in/out of SA_RUNNING without having to do any synchronization. In that
> case it should be quite close to sys_membarrier() - modulo some minimal
> signal API overhead. [which we could optimize some more, if it's visible in
> your benchmarks.]
> Signals per se are pretty scalable these days - now that most of the fastpaths
> are decoupled from tasklist_lock and everything is RCU-ized.
> Further benefits are:
> - both SA_NOFPU and SA_RUNNING could be used by a _lot_ more user-space
> facilities than just user-space RCU.
> - synergetic effects: growing some real high-performance facility based on
> signals would ensure further signal speedups in the future as well.
> Currently any server app that runs into signal limitations tends to shy
> away from them and use some different (and often inferior) signalling
> scheme. It would be better extend signals with 'lightweight' capabilities
> as well.
> All in one, signals are used by like 99.9% of Linux apps, while
> sys_membarrier() would be used only by [WAG] 0.00001% of them.
> So before we can merge this (at least via the RCU tree, which you have sent it
> to), i'd like to see you try _much_, _MUCH_ harder to fix the very obvious
> signal overhead performance problems you have demoed via the numbers above so
> nicely.

I think we can start with the SA_RUNNING+modified sa_info approach to signal
only running threads. I expect that much of the benefit will come from there.
Then, from that point, we can see if SA_NOFPU provides a significant performance

Now, a very basic questions: in the signal-based approach I currently use, I
reserve SIGUSR1 _from my liburcu library_ (yeah, that's pretty ugly). The
problem is: how can I reserve new signal numbers from a library point of view
without having the applications using it too ? We have room left in the rt
signals numbers, so maybe this is a lesser problem than with standard signals,
which are quite full, but the problem of making sure the application does not
conflict stays.

> If _that_ fails, and if we get all the fruits of that, _then_ we might
> perhaps, with a lot of hesitation, concede defeat and think about adding yet
> another syscall.
> I know it's cool to add a brand new syscall - but, unfortunately, in practice
> it doesnt help Linux apps all that much. (at least until we have tools/klibc/
> or so.)
> [ There's also a few small cleanliness details i noticed in your patch: enums
> are a tiny bit nicer for ABIs than #define's, the #ifdef SMP is ugly, etc. -
> but it doesnt really matter much as i think we should concentrate on the
> scalability problems of signals first. ]

OK, let's do that.



> Thanks,
> Ingo

Mathieu Desnoyers
Operating System Efficiency Consultant
EfficiOS Inc.
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