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A Runtime System for Software Lock Elision

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Eiko Yoneki.

The advent of multi-core processors means that exploiting parallelism is key to increasing the performance of programs. Many researchers have studied the use of atomic blocks as a way to simplify the construction of scalable parallel programs. However, there is a large body of existing lock-based code, and typically it is incorrect to simply replace lock-based critical sections with atomic blocks. Some problems include the need to do IO within critical sections; the use of primitives such as condition variables; and the sometime reliance on underlying lock properties such as fairness or priority inheritance.

In this talk I will present an alternative: a software runtime system that allows threads to speculatively execute lock-based critical sections in parallel. Execution proceeds optimistically, dynamically detecting conflicts between accesses by concurrent threads.

However, if there are frequent conflicts, or if there are attempts to perform operations that cannot be done speculatively, then execution can fall back to acquiring a lock. The runtime system has been designed with the requirements of systems code in mind: in particular it does not require that programs be written in type-safe languages, nor does it require any form of garbage collection. Furthermore, it never requires a thread to block at any point other than a held lock, thereby retaining locking semantics that are familiar to programmers.

Bio: I am a second year PhD student in the Systems Research Group at the Computer Laboratory. I am supervised by Steven Hand from the lab and Tim Harris from Microsoft Research. Prior to this I have worked on memory consistency verification and performance modeling at Intel. I received my masters degree in computer science at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Systems Research Group Seminar series.

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