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SubjectRe: [Lse-tech] Re: RFC: patch to allow lock-free traversal of lists with insertion

On Wed, 10 Oct 2001, BALBIR SINGH wrote:
> >
> >And THAT is the hard part. Doing lookup without locks ends up being
> >pretty much worthless, because you need the locks for the removal
> >anyway, at which point the whole thing looks pretty moot.
>
> What about cases like the pci device list or any other such list. Sometimes
> you do not care if somebody added something, while you were looking through
> the list as long as you do not get illegal addresses or data.
> Wouldn't this be very useful there? Most of these lists come up
> at system startup and change rearly, but we look through them often.

It's not about "change rarely". You cannot use a non-locking lookup if
they _ever_ remove anything.

I can't think of many lists like that. The PCI lists certainly are both
add/remove: cardbus bridges and hotplug-PCI means that they are not just
purely "enumerate at bootup".

Sure, maybe there are _some_ things that don't need to ever be removed,
but I can't think of any interesting data structure off-hand. Truly static
stuff tends to be allocated in an array that is sized once - array lookups
are much faster than traversing a linked list anyway.

So the linked list approach tends to make sense for things that _aren't_
just static, but I don't know of anything that only grows and grows. In
fact, that would sound like a horrible memory leak to me if we had
something like that. Even slow growth is bad if you want up-times measured
in years.

Now, in all fairness I can imagine hacky lock-less removals too. To get
them to work, you have to (a) change the "next" pointer to point to the
next->next (and have some serialization between removals, but removals
only, to make sure you don't have next->next also going away from you) and
(b) leave the old "next" pointer (and thus the data structure) around
until you can _prove_ that nobody is looking anything up any more, and
that the now-defunct data structure can truly be removed.

However, apart from locking, there aren't all that many ways to "prove"
that non-use. You could probably do it with interesting atomic sequence
numbers etc, although by the time you generate atomic sequence numbers
your lookup is already getting heavier - to the point where locking
probably isn't so bad an idea any more.

Linus

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