Lock-free slab allocator / freelist.
C Makefile C++
Latest commit f3ae5b8 Sep 22, 2015 @dhobsd dhobsd uslab: Check lseek/write/close for errors
Retry close(2) in case it gets EINTR. Stash and restore errno in case closing
the file descriptor also gets EINTR if lseek(2) fails.



Uslab is a standalone, lock-free slab allocator library supporting both short-lived allocations as well as persistent storage. It is expected to shine as a bounded buffer of fixed-size objects.


Two major properties of uslab allow it to be small, simple, and lock-free. First, freed memory is never actually returned to the operating system. Instead, anything explicitly freed becomes the head of a freelist (which is thus implemented as a stack). The freelist is maintained by reusing the areas we previously allocated to store pointers to additional items in the list.

Some ancillary assumptions are made. Memory must start zeroed, and therefore must be either mapped with MAP_ANONYMOUS or from a file on a RAM-backed disk store. Because memory is zeroed, any item appearing on a freelist chain with a 0 value implies that the immediately adjacent "node" is also free. Because of this assumption, we do not use offsets (and consequently, if using the slab for persistent memory storage, the slab must be mapped at a fixed address).

The slab is designed to be safe with many concurrently allocating threads with many concurrently freeing threads. Items must be freed only once per corresponding allocation. Double frees will result in a corrupted free stack, likely creating a loop in the stack that ends up resulting in undefined behavior.

The slab is ABA-safe. It must be, because it is possible for pre-emption to pause a thread that has observed slab->first_free->next_free. During this paused period, another thread may actually become the owner of the object we're paused reading. If at least 1 free occurs before the winning thread frees the paused thread's slab->first_free, slab->first_free->next_free will no longer be consistent and the stack will be corrupted.


Uslab has been tested on Linux and requires Concurrency Kit to build. To build, run make. It is not designed to be a drop-in memory allocator replacement.


struct uslab_pt

Consuming applications must define a pointer to a thread-local struct uslab_pt called uslab_pt. This is a per-thread region of the slab used to reduce contention.

__thread struct uslab_pt *uslab_pt

struct uslab

Structure describing an slab and allocated at the head of the slab. Details of the structure are managed by the library. The code holding the reference to the slab must treat it as immutable.

Creating an Arena

struct uslab    *uslab_create_anonymous(void *base, size_t size_class, uint64_t nelem);
struct uslab    *uslab_create_heap(size_t size_class, uint64_t nelem);
struct uslab    *uslab_create_ramdisk(const char *path, void *base, size_t size_class, uint64_t nelem);

Three methods exist for creating an slab:

  • From an anonymous mmap(2) region, using uslab_create_anonymous.
  • From the heap (using calloc(3)), using uslab_create_heap.
  • From a sparse file on a memory disk, using uslab_create_ramdisk.

Allocating and Freeing

void            *uslab_alloc(struct uslab *); 
void            uslab_free(struct uslab *, void *p);

To allocate, pass the handle from your uslab_create_* call. To free, pass the handle and the pointer received from uslab_alloc. Simple.