A reimplementation of Bond et al.'s OCTET barriers (lightweight, biased locks) in C++11
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A reimplementation of Bond et al.'s OCTET barriers (lightweight, biased locks) in C++11.

See Bond et. al, OCTET: Capturing and Controlling Cross-Thread Dependencies Efficiently (OOPSLA 2013) and Sengupta et al., EnforSCer: Hybrid Static–Dynamic Analysis for End-to-End Sequential Consistency in Software (TR) for detailed background, but to quote from the latter:

OCTET [has] read and write barriers before every access to potentially shared objects. At run time, each barrier checks that the current thread has exclusive or read-shared access to the object. If so, the access may proceed; otherwise, the barrier must change the object’s state before the access can proceed.

The key to OCTET’s good performance is that if a thread already has exclusive or read-shared access to an object, it may proceed without performing synchronization. In this way, OCTET barriers essentially function like locks except that (1) they support both exclusive and read-shared behavior; (2) there is no explicit release operation, but rather an acquiring thread communicates with thread(s) that have access to the lock in order to gain access; and (3) acquire operations do not need synchronization as long as the thread already has access to the lock.

This code was written based on the descriptions in the above papers, rather than starting from the official OCTET source code, which is now available in the form of a patch for the Jikes RVM. Further, there are a few intentional differences from the OCTET paper:

  • The global/thread-local counters for Read-Shared locks were elided, and compensating synchronization was added.
  • All threads use an identical "Intermediate" flag value.
  • I added an explicit unlocking operation, because it speeds up the stress test in certain situations.

The code is written in C++11, and the stress test has been compiled and run on Mac OS X and on Linux (assuming clang++ is installed).


This code was developed for experimental and exploratory purposes within the Observationally Cooperative Multithreading research project, and so we gratefully acknowledge that this material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1219243. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

We are also grateful to Mike Bond for answering a few questions about OCTET barriers.