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/Documentation/RCU/checklist.txt

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  1Review Checklist for RCU Patches
  2
  3
  4This document contains a checklist for producing and reviewing patches
  5that make use of RCU.  Violating any of the rules listed below will
  6result in the same sorts of problems that leaving out a locking primitive
  7would cause.  This list is based on experiences reviewing such patches
  8over a rather long period of time, but improvements are always welcome!
  9
 100.	Is RCU being applied to a read-mostly situation?  If the data
 11	structure is updated more than about 10% of the time, then
 12	you should strongly consider some other approach, unless
 13	detailed performance measurements show that RCU is nonetheless
 14	the right tool for the job.
 15
 16	The other exception would be where performance is not an issue,
 17	and RCU provides a simpler implementation.  An example of this
 18	situation is the dynamic NMI code in the Linux 2.6 kernel,
 19	at least on architectures where NMIs are rare.
 20
 211.	Does the update code have proper mutual exclusion?
 22
 23	RCU does allow -readers- to run (almost) naked, but -writers- must
 24	still use some sort of mutual exclusion, such as:
 25
 26	a.	locking,
 27	b.	atomic operations, or
 28	c.	restricting updates to a single task.
 29
 30	If you choose #b, be prepared to describe how you have handled
 31	memory barriers on weakly ordered machines (pretty much all of
 32	them -- even x86 allows reads to be reordered), and be prepared
 33	to explain why this added complexity is worthwhile.  If you
 34	choose #c, be prepared to explain how this single task does not
 35	become a major bottleneck on big multiprocessor machines.
 36
 372.	Do the RCU read-side critical sections make proper use of
 38	rcu_read_lock() and friends?  These primitives are needed
 39	to suppress preemption (or bottom halves, in the case of
 40	rcu_read_lock_bh()) in the read-side critical sections,
 41	and are also an excellent aid to readability.
 42
 433.	Does the update code tolerate concurrent accesses?
 44
 45	The whole point of RCU is to permit readers to run without
 46	any locks or atomic operations.  This means that readers will
 47	be running while updates are in progress.  There are a number
 48	of ways to handle this concurrency, depending on the situation:
 49
 50	a.	Make updates appear atomic to readers.  For example,
 51		pointer updates to properly aligned fields will appear
 52		atomic, as will individual atomic primitives.  Operations
 53		performed under a lock and sequences of multiple atomic
 54		primitives will -not- appear to be atomic.
 55
 56		This is almost always the best approach.
 57
 58	b.	Carefully order the updates and the reads so that
 59		readers see valid data at all phases of the update.
 60		This is often more difficult than it sounds, especially
 61		given modern CPUs' tendency to reorder memory references.
 62		One must usually liberally sprinkle memory barriers
 63		(smp_wmb(), smp_rmb(), smp_mb()) through the code,
 64		making it difficult to understand and to test.
 65
 66		It is usually better to group the changing data into
 67		a separate structure, so that the change may be made
 68		to appear atomic by updating a pointer to reference
 69		a new structure containing updated values.
 70
 714.	Weakly ordered CPUs pose special challenges.  Almost all CPUs
 72	are weakly ordered -- even i386 CPUs allow reads to be reordered.
 73	RCU code must take all of the following measures to prevent
 74	memory-corruption problems:
 75
 76	a.	Readers must maintain proper ordering of their memory
 77		accesses.  The rcu_dereference() primitive ensures that
 78		the CPU picks up the pointer before it picks up the data
 79		that the pointer points to.  This really is necessary
 80		on Alpha CPUs.	If you don't believe me, see:
 81
 82			http://www.openvms.compaq.com/wizard/wiz_2637.html
 83
 84		The rcu_dereference() primitive is also an excellent
 85		documentation aid, letting the person reading the code
 86		know exactly which pointers are protected by RCU.
 87
 88		The rcu_dereference() primitive is used by the various
 89		"_rcu()" list-traversal primitives, such as the
 90		list_for_each_entry_rcu().
 91
 92	b.	If the list macros are being used, the list_del_rcu(),
 93		list_add_tail_rcu(), and list_del_rcu() primitives must
 94		be used in order to prevent weakly ordered machines from
 95		misordering structure initialization and pointer planting.
 96		Similarly, if the hlist macros are being used, the
 97		hlist_del_rcu() and hlist_add_head_rcu() primitives
 98		are required.
 99
100	c.	Updates must ensure that initialization of a given
101		structure happens before pointers to that structure are
102		publicized.  Use the rcu_assign_pointer() primitive
103		when publicizing a pointer to a structure that can
104		be traversed by an RCU read-side critical section.
105
106		[The rcu_assign_pointer() primitive is in process.]
107
1085.	If call_rcu(), or a related primitive such as call_rcu_bh(),
109	is used, the callback function must be written to be called
110	from softirq context.  In particular, it cannot block.
111
1126.	Since synchronize_kernel() blocks, it cannot be called from
113	any sort of irq context.
114
1157.	If the updater uses call_rcu(), then the corresponding readers
116	must use rcu_read_lock() and rcu_read_unlock().  If the updater
117	uses call_rcu_bh(), then the corresponding readers must use
118	rcu_read_lock_bh() and rcu_read_unlock_bh().  Mixing things up
119	will result in confusion and broken kernels.
120
121	One exception to this rule: rcu_read_lock() and rcu_read_unlock()
122	may be substituted for rcu_read_lock_bh() and rcu_read_unlock_bh()
123	in cases where local bottom halves are already known to be
124	disabled, for example, in irq or softirq context.  Commenting
125	such cases is a must, of course!  And the jury is still out on
126	whether the increased speed is worth it.
127
1288.	Although synchronize_kernel() is a bit slower than is call_rcu(),
129	it usually results in simpler code.  So, unless update performance
130	is important or the updaters cannot block, synchronize_kernel()
131	should be used in preference to call_rcu().
132
1339.	All RCU list-traversal primitives, which include
134	list_for_each_rcu(), list_for_each_entry_rcu(),
135	list_for_each_continue_rcu(), and list_for_each_safe_rcu(),
136	must be within an RCU read-side critical section.  RCU
137	read-side critical sections are delimited by rcu_read_lock()
138	and rcu_read_unlock(), or by similar primitives such as
139	rcu_read_lock_bh() and rcu_read_unlock_bh().
140
141	Use of the _rcu() list-traversal primitives outside of an
142	RCU read-side critical section causes no harm other than
143	a slight performance degradation on Alpha CPUs and some
144	confusion on the part of people trying to read the code.
145
146	Another way of thinking of this is "If you are holding the
147	lock that prevents the data structure from changing, why do
148	you also need RCU-based protection?"  That said, there may
149	well be situations where use of the _rcu() list-traversal
150	primitives while the update-side lock is held results in
151	simpler and more maintainable code.  The jury is still out
152	on this question.
153
15410.	Conversely, if you are in an RCU read-side critical section,
155	you -must- use the "_rcu()" variants of the list macros.
156	Failing to do so will break Alpha and confuse people reading
157	your code.