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Date: Wed, 20 May 2015 08:33:23 +0300
From: Timo Teras <timo.teras@....fi>
To: Rich Felker <dalias@...c.org>
Cc: musl@...ts.openwall.com
Subject: Re: Refactoring atomics as llsc?

On Wed, 20 May 2015 01:11:08 -0400
Rich Felker <dalias@...c.org> wrote:

> Of course the big outlier is x86, which is not llsc based but has
> actual atomic primitives at the instruction level. If we defined the
> sc() primitive to take 3 args instead of 2 (address, old value from
> ll, new value to conditionally store; most archs would ignore the old
> value argument) then we could model x86 with ll being a plain load and
> sc being cmpxchg to allow any new custom primitives to work using
> cmpxchg. Then we would just continue providing custom versions of all
> the old a_* ops (a_cas, a_fetch_add, a_inc, a_dec, a_and, a_or,
> a_swap) to take advantage of the x86 instructions. These versions
> could probably be shared by all x86 variants (i386, x86_64, x32) since
> they're operating on 32-bit values and the asm should be the same.

I wonder if calling that kind of emulation ll()/sc() would be
misleading. load-linked store-conditional has stronger guarantees. sc
will fail if the cache-line was invalidated in-between, thread was
pre-empted etc.

Using cmpxchg can be used to emulate it only when the user is aware of
ABA problem (some other thread may have changed the value behind us
multiple times). Such emulation is of course ok for a_fetch_add, etc.
But one needs to be more careful if using pointers (and trying to make
sure the same pointer was not first removed and later re-added).

And if you want to optimize the above mentioned cases, one really needs
to know if it's true ll+sc, or write the synchronization differently.
In these cases the algorithm is often implemented twice with the
different available atomics.

/Timo

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