Brief Announcement: Towards Reduced Instruction Sets for Synchronization

Authors Rati Gelashvili, Idit Keidar, Alexander Spiegelman, Roger Wattenhofer

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Rati Gelashvili
Idit Keidar
Alexander Spiegelman
Roger Wattenhofer

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Rati Gelashvili, Idit Keidar, Alexander Spiegelman, and Roger Wattenhofer. Brief Announcement: Towards Reduced Instruction Sets for Synchronization. In 31st International Symposium on Distributed Computing (DISC 2017). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 91, pp. 53:1-53:4, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2017)


Contrary to common belief, a recent work by Ellen, Gelashvili, Shavit, and Zhu has shown that computability does not require multicore architectures to support "strong" synchronization instructions like compare-and-swap, as opposed to combinations of "weaker" instructions like decrement and multiply. However, this is the status quo, and in turn, most efficient concurrent data-structures heavily rely on compare-and-swap (e.g. for swinging pointers). We show that this need not be the case, by designing and implementing a concurrent linearizable Log data-structure (also known as a History object), supporting two operations: append(item), which appends the item to the log, and get-log(), which returns the appended items so far, in order. Readers are wait-free and writers are lock-free, hence this data-structure can be used in a lock-free universal construction to implement any concurrent object with a given sequential specification. Our implementation uses atomic read, xor, decrement, and fetch-and-increment instructions supported on X86 architectures, and provides similar performance to a compare-and-swap-based solution on today's hardware. This raises a fundamental question about minimal set of synchronization instructions that the architectures have to support.
  • Consensus hierarchy
  • universal construction
  • synchronization instruction.


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