Chapter 5

Wait-Free Synchronization

5.1 Introduction

The synchronization mechanisms that we have discussed so far are based on locking data structures during concurrent accesses. The lock-based synchronization mechanisms are inappropriate in fault tolerance and real-time applications. When we use lock-based synchronization, if a process fails inside the critical section, then all other processes cannot perform their own operations. Even if no process ever fails, lock-based synchronization is bad for real-time systems. Consider a thread serving a request with a short deadline. If another thread is inside the critical section and is slow, then this thread may have to wait and therefore miss its deadline. Using locks also require the programmer to worry about deadlocks. In this chapter, we introduce synchronization mechanisms that do not use locks and are therefore called lock-free. If lock-free synchronization also guarantees that each operation finishes in a bounded number of steps, then it is called wait-free.

To illustrate lock-free synchronization, we will implement various concurrent objects. The implementation of a concurrent object may use other simpler concurrent objects. One dimension of simplicity of an object is based on whether it allows multiple readers or writers. We use SR, MR, SW, and MW to denote single reader, multiple reader, single writer, and multiple writer, respectively. The other dimension is the consistency condition satisfied by the register. For a single-writer ...

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