Software transactional memory
Rust
Latest commit daff45f Mar 16, 2017 @Marthog Fixed links in README.md.

README.md

Software Transactional Memory Build Status

This library implements software transactional memory, often abbreviated with STM.

It is designed closely to haskells STM library. Read Simon Marlow's Parallel and Concurrent Programming in Haskell for more info. Especially the chapter about Performance is also important for using STM in rust.

With locks the sequential composition of two two threadsafe actions is no longer threadsafe because other threads may interfer in between of these actions. Applying a third lock to protect both may lead to common sources of errors like deadlocks or race conditions.

Unlike locks Software transactional memory is composable. It is typically implemented by writing all read and write operations in a log. When the action has finished and all the used TVars are consistend, the writes are commited as a single atomic operation. Otherwise the computation repeats. This may lead to starvation, but avoids common sources of bugs.

Panicing within STM does not poison the TVars. STM ensures consistency by never committing on panic.

Usage

You should only use the functions that are safe to use.

Don't have side effects except for the atomic variables, from this library. Especially a mutex or other blocking mechanisms inside of software transactional memory is dangerous.

You can run the top-level atomic operation by calling atomically.

use stm::atomically;
atomically(|trans| {
    // some action
    // return value as `Result`, for example
    Ok(42)
});

Calls to atomically should not be nested.

For running an atomic operation inside of another, pass a mutable reference to a Transaction and call try! on the result or use ?. You should not handle the error yourself, because it breaks consistency.

use stm::{atomically, TVar};
let var = TVar::new(0);

let x = atomically(|trans| {
    var.write(trans, 42)?; // Pass failure to parent.
    var.read(trans) // Return the value saved in var.
});

println!("var = {}", x);

STM safety

Software transactional memory is completely safe in the terms, that rust considers safe. Still there are multiple rules that you should obey when dealing with software transactional memory:

  • Don't run code with side effects, especially no IO-code, because stm repeats the computation when it detects inconsistent state. Return a closure if you have to.
  • Don't handle the error types yourself, unless you absolutely know, what you are doing. Use Transaction::or, to combine alternative paths. Always call try! or ? and never ignore a StmResult.
  • Don't run atomically inside of another. atomically is designed to have side effects and will therefore break stm's assumptions. Nested calls are detected at runtime and handled with panic. When you use STM in the inner of a function, then express it in the public interface, by taking &mut Transaction as parameter and returning StmResult<T>. Callers can safely compose it into larger blocks.
  • Don't mix locks and transactions. Your code will easily deadlock or slow down on unpredictably.
  • Don't use inner mutability to change the content of a TVar.

Speed

Generally keep your atomic blocks as small as possible, because the more time you spend, the more likely it is, to collide with other threads. For STM, reading TVars is quite slow, because it needs to look them up in the log every time. Every used TVar increases the chance of collisions. Therefore you should keep the amount of accessed variables as low as needed.

License

Licensed under either of

at your option.

Contribution

Unless you explicitly state otherwise, any contribution intentionally submitted for inclusion in the work by you, as defined in the Apache-2.0 license, shall be dual licensed as above, without any additional terms or conditions.