Principles and Practice of Parallel Programming (PPoPP) is the premier forum for work on concurrent and parallel systems, including multicore, multi-threaded, heterogeneous, clustered, and distributed systems; grids; datacenters; clouds; and large scale machines.
Authors: Naama Ben-David (VMware Research)
, Guy E. Blelloch (Carnegie Mellon University), Yuanhao Wei (Carnegie Mellon University).
This paper presents a new and practical approach to lock-free locks based on helping, which allows the user to write code using fine-grained locks, but run it in a lock-free manner. Although lock-free locks have been suggested in the past, they are widely viewed as impractical, have some key limitations, and, as far as we know, have never been implemented. The paper presents some key techniques that make lock-free locks practical and more general. The most important technique is an approach to idempotence—i.e. making code that runs multiple times appear as if it ran once. The idea is based on using a shared log among processes running the same protected code. Importantly, the approach can be library based, requiring very little if any change to standard code—code just needs to use the idempotent versions of memory operations (load, store, LL/SC, allocation, free).
We have implemented a C++ library called Flock based on the ideas. Flock allows lock-based data structures to run in either lock-free or blocking (traditional locks) mode. We implemented a variety of tree and list-based data structures with Flock and compare the performance of the lock-free and blocking modes under a variety of workloads. The lock-free mode is almost as fast as blocking mode under almost all workloads, and significantly faster when threads are oversubscribed (more threads than processors). We also compare with several existing lock-based and lock-free alternatives.
Learn more at the PPoPP '22 Proceedings