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SubjectRe: [PATCH tip/core/rcu 23/23] rcu: Simplify quiescent-state detection
* Paul E. McKenney ( wrote:
> On Thu, Sep 06, 2012 at 04:36:02PM +0200, Peter Zijlstra wrote:
> > On Thu, 2012-08-30 at 11:18 -0700, Paul E. McKenney wrote:
> > > From: "Paul E. McKenney" <>
> > >
> > > The current quiescent-state detection algorithm is needlessly
> > > complex.
> >
> > Heh! Be careful, we might be led into believing all this RCU is actually
> > really rather simple and this complexity is a bug on your end ;-)
> Actually, the smallest "toy" implementation of RCU is only about 20
> lines of code -- and on a mythical sequentially consistent system, it
> would be smaller still. Of course, the Linux kernel implementation if
> somewhat larger. Something about wanting scalability above a few tens of
> CPUs, real-time response (also on huge numbers of CPUs), energy-efficient
> handling of dyntick-idle mode, detection of stalled CPUs, and so on. ;-)
> > > It records the grace-period number corresponding to
> > > the quiescent state at the time of the quiescent state, which
> > > works, but it seems better to simply erase any record of previous
> > > quiescent states at the time that the CPU notices the new grace
> > > period. This has the further advantage of removing another piece
> > > of RCU for which lockless reasoning is required.
> >
> > So why didn't you do that from the start? :-)
> Because I was slow and stupid! ;-)
> > That is, I'm curious to know some history, why was it so and what led
> > you to this insight?
> I had historically (as in for almost 20 years now) used a counter
> to track grace periods. Now these are in theory subject to integer
> overflow, but DYNIX/ptx was non-preemptible, so the general line of
> reasoning was that anything that might stall long enough for even a 32-bit
> grace-period counter to overflow would necessarily stall grace periods,
> thus preventing overflow.
> Of course, the advent of CONFIG_PREEMPT in the Linux kernel invalidated
> this assumption, but for most uses, if the grace-period counter overflows,
> you have waited way more than a grace period, so who cares?
> Then combination of TREE_RCU and dyntick-idle came along, and it became
> necessary to more carefully associate quiescent states with the corresponding
> grace period. Now here overflow is dangerous, because it can result in
> associating an ancient quiescent state with the current grace period.
> But my attitude was that if you have a task preempted for more than one
> year, getting soft-lockup warnings every two minutes during that time,
> well, you got what you deserved. And even then at very low probability.
> However, formal validation software (such as Promela) do not take kindly
> to free-running counters. The usual trick is to use a much narrower
> counter. But that would mean that any attempted mechanical validation
> would give a big fat false positive on the counter used to associate
> quiescent states with grace periods. Because I have a long-term goal
> of formally validating RCU is it sits in the Linux kernel, that counter
> had to go.

I believe this approach bring the kernel RCU implementation slightly
closer to the userspace RCU implementation we use for 32-bit QSBR and
the 32/64-bit "urcu mb" variant for libraries, of which we've indeed
been able to make a complete formal model in Promela. Simplifying the
algorithm (mainly its state-space) in order to let formal verifiers cope
with it entirely has a lot of value I think: it lets us mechanically
verify safety and progress. A nice way to lessen the number of headaches
caused by RCU! ;-)



> And I do believe that the result is easier for humans to understand, so
> it is all to the good.
> This time, at least. ;-)
> Thanx, Paul

Mathieu Desnoyers
Operating System Efficiency R&D Consultant
EfficiOS Inc.

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