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Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2016 19:21:40 -0500
From: Rich Felker <>
Subject: Re: musl without atomic instructions?

On Sun, Mar 13, 2016 at 08:47:36AM +0900, Masanori Ogino wrote:
> Hello,
> While I work on my GSoC proposal, I doubt whether musl can be built
> without hardware atomic operation supports.
> Could we build musl without such instructions?
> If we could, what will happen with the features of musl?

Atomic compare and swap (usually provided by either a direct cas
instruction or ll/sc pair type) is a hard requirement for musl. The
normal profiles of riscv have at least ll/sc style and possibly cas
too. Minimal profiles for microcontroller use lack it (this was a
mistake in the riscv ISA specification, IMO), so if supporting these
ISA levels is interesting, there are at least three options:

1. Have the kernel trap the unimplemented instructions and emulate

2. Have userspace issue a system call to have the kernel mediate
   atomic accesses.

3. Integrate atomic sequence restart with the scheduler: at scheduling
   time, the kernel determines if the task being resumed was
   interrupted in the middle of a sequence of instructions that's
   supposed to be atomic, and if so, resets the program counter to the
   beginning of the sequence. (This is how pre-v6 ARM and most SH
   models work.)

Option 3 offers by far the best performance but inherently only works
on uniprocessor. Options 1 and 2 could theoretically support SMP as
long as the kernel has some other way of ensuring mutual exclusion and
memory synchronization between the processors.

Of course the best of all worlds is to have the kernel provide a vdso
function for atomic cas which it can then provide an optimal
implementation of for the particular processor being used. Then
baseline-ISA-level riscv binaries would use the vdso, and ones
targeting an ISA level that's known to have native atomic instructions
would use the inline instructions.


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