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SubjectRe: [RFC][PATCH 0/5] arch: atomic rework
On Mon, 2014-02-24 at 09:38 -0800, Linus Torvalds wrote:
> On Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 8:55 AM, Michael Matz <> wrote:
> >
> > So, let me try to poke holes into your definition or increase my
> > understanding :) . You said "chain of pointers"(dereferences I assume),
> > e.g. if p is result of consume load, then access to
> > p->here->there->next->prev->stuff is supposed to be ordered with that load
> > (or only when that last load/store itself is also an atomic load or
> > store?).
> It's supposed to be ordered wrt the first load (the consuming one), yes.
> > So, what happens if the pointer deref chain is partly hidden in some
> > functions:
> No problem.
> The thing is, the ordering is actually handled by the CPU in all
> relevant cases. So the compiler doesn't actually need to *do*
> anything. All this legalistic stuff is just to describe the semantics
> and the guarantees.
> The problem is two cases:
> (a) alpha (which doesn't really order any accesses at all, not even
> dependent loads), but for a compiler alpha is actually trivial: just
> add a "rmb" instruction after the load, and you can't really do
> anything else (there's a few optimizations you can do wrt the rmb, but
> they are very specific and simple).
> So (a) is a "problem", but the solution is actually really simple, and
> gives very *strong* guarantees: on alpha, a "consume" ends up being
> basically the same as a read barrier after the load, with only very
> minimal room for optimization.
> (b) ARM and powerpc and similar architectures, that guarantee the
> data dependency as long as it is an *actual* data dependency, and
> never becomes a control dependency.
> On ARM and powerpc, control dependencies do *not* order accesses (the
> reasons boil down to essentially: branch prediction breaks the
> dependency, and instructions that come after the branch can be happily
> executed before the branch). But it's almost impossible to describe
> that in the standard, since compilers can (and very much do) turn a
> control dependency into a data dependency and vice versa.
> So the current standard tries to describe that "control vs data"
> dependency, and tries to limit it to a data dependency. It fails. It
> fails for multiple reasons - it doesn't allow for trivial
> optimizations that just remove the data dependency, and it also
> doesn't allow for various trivial cases where the compiler *does* turn
> the data dependency into a control dependency.
> So I really really think that the current C standard language is
> broken. Unfixably broken.
> I'm trying to change the "syntactic data dependency" that the current
> standard uses into something that is clearer and correct.
> The "chain of pointers" thing is still obviously a data dependency,
> but by limiting it to pointers, it simplifies the language, clarifies
> the meaning, avoids all syntactic tricks (ie "p-p" is clearly a
> syntactic dependency on "p", but does *not* involve in any way
> following the pointer) and makes it basically impossible for the
> compiler to break the dependency without doing value prediction, and
> since value prediction has to be disallowed anyway, that's a feature,
> not a bug.

AFAIU, Michael is wondering about how we can separate non-synchronizing
code (ie, in this case, not taking part in any "chain of pointers" used
with mo_consume loads) from code that does. If we cannot, then we
prevent value prediction *everywhere*, unless the compiler can prove
that the code is never part of such a chain (which is hard due to alias
analysis being hard, etc.).
(We can probably argue to which extent value prediction is necessary for
generation of efficient code, but it obviously does work in
non-synchronizing code (or even with acquire barriers with some care) --
so forbidding it entirely might be bad.)

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