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Atlas: Programming for Persistent Memory

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Data in persistent memory survives certain tolerated events such as process termination, OS reboots/crashes, and power failures. Persistent memory is assumed to be directly accessible with CPU loads and stores. This kind of programming is relevant on new servers with NVDIMMs as well as future machines with non-volatile memory such as memristors or 3D XPoint. Atlas provides high level APIs that allow the programmer to persist data in a fault-tolerant manner and reuse it later on. Any program which has reusable data that can be exploited to achieve a faster restart or a restart from an intermediate program point is a candidate for this paradigm.

A persistent memory allocator is provided for identifying data that should be preserved regardless of machine shutdowns or failures. By conforming to certain programming idioms and APIs, programmers can automatically obtain failure-resilience of persistent data. The programming model with implementation details can be found in the OOPSLA 2014 paper on Atlas.

The current implementation supports POSIX threads but the implementation for C/C++11 threads should be similar. Linux tmpfs is currently used to simulate persistent memory. Hence, persistent data in this implementation survives process crashes but not OS shutdowns/panics and power failures. However, the APIs and the implementation are ready for all of the above failures. The intention is to allow programmers to write code in a programming style that is ready for upcoming persistent memory based systems.

This software is currently experimental, see COPYING for license terms. Contributions and feedback are very welcome.

What is Included?

APIs are provided for creation and management of persistent regions which are implemented on top of memory mapped files. Support for a persistent memory allocator is provided. In essence, a programmer is able to identify data structures that must be maintained in a persistent manner. The goal of Atlas is to ensure that persistent data are updated in a consistent manner regardless of failures.

The current implementation has two primary components: a compiler-plugin and a runtime library. The programmer writes multithreaded code, possibly using locks for synchronization, and puts data in persistent regions as required. This code is passed through the plugin at compile-time that results in calls to the runtime library at appropriate program points. When this program is run, automatic failure-atomicity (all-or-nothing) of updates to persistent data structures is provided. If a failure occurs, recovery must be initiated to ensure that persistent data structures are consistent.

Persistent Region APIs

A preview is provided here. See runtime/include/atlas_alloc.h for the actual interfaces.

A programmer needs to create one or more named persistent regions, entities that hold everything persistent. The interface NVM_FindOrCreateRegion or a variant can be used for this purpose. If a region with the provided name exists, a handle to the region is returned. Otherwise a region is created and its handle is returned. Interfaces to close or delete a region are available.

To populate a persistent region, memory must be dynamically allocated from that persistent region using nvm_alloc (or a variant) that has a malloc-style interface. The region identifier must be provided so as to identify the persistent region intended. An nvm_free is provided for deallocation purposes.

Management of persistent regions and the contained data together identify the persistent objects used by a program. Care must be taken to ensure that all valid data within a persistent region is reachable from the persistent root of the region. Use the interface NVM_SetRegionRoot for this purpose.

Consistency APIs

See runtime/include/atlas_api.h for the actual interfaces.

Persistent data must be kept consistent regardless of failures. The programmer needs to call NVM_Initialize and NVM_Finalize to start and stop Atlas support. Additionally, Atlas needs to know code sections where program invariants are modified. If the program is multithreaded and written using locks for synchronization, Atlas automatically infers boundaries of regions where it must preserve failure-atomicity (all-or-nothing) of updates to persistent memory. Optionally, the programmer can demarcate sections of code with calls to nvm_begin_durable and nvm_end_durable to identify a durable or failure-atomic section of code. Note that no isolation among threads is provided by a durable section. In contrast, if persistent data is modified within a critical section, the critical section provides both isolation among threads and durability to persistent memory.

Restart Code

A program might want to reuse data within a persistent region. For this purpose, after finding a region handle, use the interface NVM_GetRegionRoot to access the reachable data. Instead of starting from scratch, this data can be reused to essentially restart from where the region was left off the last time around.

That's all, as far as Atlas APIs are concerned. Compared to a transient program, the idea is to write persistent memory programs with as few changes as possible.


  • The APIs for this model are in runtime/include. API doc here.
  • Instructions on how to build the compiler-plugin are in compiler-plugin/
  • Instructions on how to build the runtime are in runtime/
  • For example programs using Atlas, see runtime/tests.
  • The Atlas library sources are in runtime/src.


  • Currently, we support only x86-64 CPUs
  • We assume Linux OS. Linux tmpfs must be supported. Testing has been done on RedHat and Ubuntu.
  • We assume modern C/C++ compilers in the build environment that must support C/C++11.
  • The default compiler used in the build is clang. Testing has been done with version 3.6.0 or later. The instrumentation support is currently available only with clang/LLVM. The runtime should build with any compiler supporting C/C++11 though clang is preferred for uniformity purposes.
  • cmake version 3.1 or later
  • boost library
  • bash 4.0

For Ubuntu 16.04, these dependencies can be installed with:

sudo apt-get install llvm clang cmake libboost-graph-dev
  • ruby (for certain test scripts), see Installing Ruby at gorails for instructions.


Questions, feedback, comments are welcome on our public mailing list. Subscribe by using the Google Groups web interface or by sending an email with subject “subscribe” to atlas-discuss+subscribe [AT]


Dhruva R. Chakrabarti, Hans-J. Boehm, and Kumud Bhandari. 2014. Atlas: leveraging locks for non-volatile memory consistency. In Proceedings of the 2014 ACM International Conference on Object Oriented Programming Systems Languages & Applications (OOPSLA '14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 433-452.


Atlas: Programming for Persistent Memory







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