Re: [RFC] arm64: Enforce observed order for spinlock and data

From: bdegraaf
Date: Thu Oct 13 2016 - 16:01:55 EST

On 2016-10-13 07:02, Will Deacon wrote:

On Wed, Oct 12, 2016 at 04:01:06PM -0400, bdegraaf@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

Everything from this point down needs clarification.

All arm64 lockref accesses that occur without taking the spinlock must
behave like true atomics, ensuring successive operations are all done

What is a "true atomic"? What do you mean by "successive"? What do you
mean by "done sequentially"?

Despite the use case in dentry, lockref itself is a generic locking API, and
any problems I describe here are with the generic API itself, not necessarily
the dentry use case. I'm not patching dentry--I'm fixing lockref.

By necessity, the API must do its update atomically, as keeping things correct
involves potential spinlock access by other agents which may opt to use the
spinlock API or the lockref API at their discretion. With the current arm64
spinlock implementation, it is possible for the lockref to observe the changed
contents of the protected count without observing the spinlock being locked,
which could lead to missed changes to the lock_count itself, because any
calculations made on it could be overwritten or completed in a different

(Spinlock locked access is obtained with a simple store under certain
scenarios. My attempt to fix this in the spinlock code was met with resistance
saying it should be addressed in lockref, since that is the API that would
encounter the issue. These changes were initiated in response to that request.
Additional ordering problems were uncovered when I looked into lockref itself.)

The example below involves only a single agent exactly as you explain the
problem in commit 8e86f0b409a44193f1587e87b69c5dcf8f65be67. Even for a single
execution agent, this means that the code below could access out of order.
As lockref is a generic API, it doesn't matter whether dentry does this or not.
By "done sequentially," I mean "accessed in program order."

As far as "true atomic" goes, I am referring to an atomic in the same sense you
did in commit 8e86f0b409a44193f1587e87b69c5dcf8f65be67.

The guarantee provided by lockref is that, if you hold the spinlock, then
you don't need to use atomics to inspect the reference count, as it is
guaranteed to be stable. You can't just go around replacing spin_lock
calls with lockref_get -- that's not what this is about.

I am not sure where you got the idea that I was referring to replacing spinlocks
with lockref calls. That is not the foundation for this fix.

the lockref accesses, when decompiled, look like the following sequence:

<Lockref "unlocked" Access [A]>

// Lockref "unlocked" (B)
1: ldxr x0, [B] // Exclusive load
<change lock_count B>
stxr w1, x0, [B]
cbnz w1, 1b

<Lockref "unlocked" Access [C]>

Even though access to the lock_count is protected by exclusives, this is not
to guarantee order: The lock_count must change atomically, in order, so the
permitted ordering would be:
A -> B -> C

Says who? Please point me at a piece of code that relies on this. I'm
willing to believe that are bugs in this area, but waving your hands around
and saying certain properties "must" hold is not helpful unless you can
say *why* they must hold and *where* that is required.

The lockref code must access in order, because other agents can observe it via
spinlock OR lockref APIs. Again, this is a generic API, not an explicit part of
dentry. Other code will use it, and the manner in which it is used in dentry is not
relevant. What lock_count is changed to is not proscribed by the lockref
API. There is no guarantee whether it be an add, subtract, multiply, divide, set
to some explicit value, etc. But the changes must be done in program order and
observable in that same order by other agents: Therefore, the spinlock and lock_count
must be accessed atomically, and observed to change atomically at the system level.

I am not off base saying lockref is an atomic access. Here are some references:

Under Documentation/filesystems/, the dentry->d_lockref mechanism
is described as an atomic access.

At the time lockref was introduced, The Linux Foundation gave a presentation at
LinuxCon 2014 that can be found at the following link:

On page 46, it outlines the lockref API. The first lines of the slide give the
relevant details.

â *Generic* mechanism to *atomically* update a reference count that is
protected by a spinlock without actually acquiring the spinlock itself.

While dentry's use is mentioned, this API is not restricted to the use case of dentry.

Unfortunately, this is not the case by the letter of the architecture and,
in fact,
the accesses to A and C are not protected by any sort of barrier, and hence
permitted to reorder freely, resulting in orderings such as

Bl -> A -> C -> Bs

Again, why is this a problem? It's exactly the same as if you did:


Accesses outside of the critical section can still be reordered. Big deal.

Since the current code resembles but actually has *fewer* ordering effects
compared to the example used by your atomic.h commit, even though A->B->C is in
program order, it could access out of order according to your own commit text
on commit 8e86f0b409a44193f1587e87b69c5dcf8f65be67.

Taking spin_lock/spin_unlock, however, includes ordering by nature of the
load-acquire observing the store-release of a prior unlock, so ordering is
enforced with the spinlock version of accesses. The lockref itself has *no*
ordering enforced, unless a locked state is encountered and it falls back
to the spinlock code. So this is a fundamental difference between lockref and
spinlock. So, no, lockref ordering is currently not exactly the same as
spinlock--but it should be.

In this specific scenario, since "change lock_count" could be an
increment, a decrement or even a set to a specific value, there could be

What trouble?

Take, for example, a use case where the ref count is either positive or zero.
If increments and decrements hit out of order, a decrement that was supposed
to come after an increment would instead do nothing if the value of the lock
started at zero. Then when the increment hit later, the ref count would remain
positive with a net effect of +1 to the ref count instead of +1-1=0. Again,
however, the lockref does not specify how the contents of lock_count are
manipulated, it was only meant to guarantee that they are done atomically when
the lock is not held.

With more agents accessing the lockref without taking the lock, even
scenarios where the cmpxchg passes falsely can be encountered, as there is
no guarantee that the the "old" value will not match exactly a newer value
due to out-of-order access by a combination of agents that increment and
decrement the lock_count by the same amount.

This is the A-B-A problem, but I don't see why it affects us here. We're
dealing with a single reference count.

If lockref accesses were to occur on many Pe's, there are all sorts of
things that could happen in terms of who wins what, and what they set the
lock_count to. My point is simply that each access should be atomic because
lockref is a generic API and was intended to be a lockless atomic access.
Leaving this problem open until someone else introduces a use that exposes
it, which could happen in the main kernel code, is probably not a good
idea, as it could prove difficult to track down.

Since multiple agents are accessing this without locking the spinlock,
this access must have the same protections in place as atomics do in the
arch's atomic.h.

Why? I don't think that it does. Have a look at how lockref is used by
the dcache code: it's really about keeping a reference to a dentry,
which may be in the process of being unhashed and removed. The
interaction with concurrent updaters to the dentry itself is handled
using a seqlock, which does have the necessary barriers. Yes, the code
is extremely complicated, but given that you're reporting issues based
on code inspection, then you'll need to understand what you're changing.

Again, this is a generic API, not an API married to dentry. If it were for
dentry's sole use, it should not be accessible outside of the dentry code.
While the cmpxchg64_relaxed case may be OK for dentry, it is not OK for the
generic case.

Fortunately, the fix is not complicated: merely removing the errant
_relaxed option on the cmpxchg64 is enough to introduce exactly the same
code sequence justified in commit 8e86f0b409a44193f1587e87b69c5dcf8f65be67
to fix arm64 atomics.

I introduced cmpxchg64_relaxed precisely for the lockref case. I still
don't see a compelling reason to strengthen it. If you think there's a bug,
please spend the effort to describe how it manifests and what can actually
go wrong in the existing codebase. Your previous patches fixing so-called
bugs found by inspection have both turned out to be bogus, so I'm sorry,
but I'm not exactly leaping on your contributions to this.


I have detailed the problems here, and they are with the generic case, no
hand waving required.

On a further note, it is not accurate to say that my prior patches were
bogus: One called to attention a yet-to-be-corrected problem in the ARMv8
Programmer's Guide, and the other was sidestepped by a refactor that
addressed the problem I set out to fix with a control flow change. Since
that problem was the fundamental reason I had worked on the gettime code
in the first place, I abandoned my effort. The refactor that fixed the
control-flow problem, however, is still missing on v4.7 and earlier kernels
(sequence lock logic should be verified prior to the isb that demarcates
the virtual counter register read). I have confirmed this is an issue on
various armv8 hardware, sometimes obtaining identical register values
between multiple reads that were delayed such that they should have shown
changes, evidence that the register read accessed prior to the seqlock
update having finished (the control flow problem).