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Subject: Re: [boost] [spinlock] Spin on volatile read, NUMA fairness?
From: Andrey Semashev (andrey.semashev_at_[hidden])
Date: 2014-12-03 15:29:07

On Wed, Dec 3, 2014 at 10:48 PM, Benedek Thaler <thalerbenedek_at_[hidden]> wrote:
> Hi All, Niall,
> 1)
> I was reading this Intel paper [0], and this section grabbed my attention:
> "One common mistake made by developers developing their own spin-wait loops
> is attempting to spin on an atomic instruction instead of spinning on a
> volatile read. Spinning on a dirty read instead of attempting to acquire a
> lock consumes less time and resources. This allows an application to only
> attempt to acquire a lock only when it is free."
> As I can tell by looking at the source code, spinlock spins on atomic
> consume. I wonder if a volatile read would produce better performance
> characteristic?

Generally speaking, things are more complicated than that. First, you
would probably be spinning with a relaxed read, not consume, which is
promoted to acquire on most, if not all, platforms. Acquire memory
ordering is not required for spinning, and on architectures that
support it it can be much more expensive than relaxed. Second, even a
relaxed atomic read is formally not equivalent to a volatile read. The
latter is not guaranteed to be atomic. Lastly, on x86 all this is
mostly moot because compilers typically generate small volatile reads
as a single instruction, which is equivalent to an acquire or relaxed
atomic read on this architecture, as long as alignment is correct.

> 2)
> AFAIK spinlocking is not necessarily fair on a NUMA architecture. Is there
> something already implemented or planned in Boost.Spinlock to ensure
> fairness?
> I'm thinking of something like this: [1]

I can't tell for Boost.Spinlock (do we have that library?), but IMHO
when you need fairness, spinlocks are not the best choice.

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