A Case for an Interleaving Constrained Shared-Memory Multi-Processor

Jie Yu and Satish Narayanasamy

International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA), June 2009.

Abstract:

Shared-memory multi-threaded programming is inherently more difficult than single-threaded programming. The main source of complexity is that, the threads of an application can interleave in so many different ways. To ensure correctness, a programmer has to test all possible thread interleavings, which, however, is impractical.

Many rare thread interleavings remain untested in production systems, and they are the root cause for a majority of concurrency bugs. We propose a shared-memory multi-processor design that avoids untested interleavings to improve the correctness of a multi-threaded program. Since untested interleavings tend to occur infrequently at runtime, the performance cost of avoiding them is not high.

We propose to encode the set of tested correct interleavings in a program's binary executable using Predecessor Set (PSet) constraints. These constraints are efficiently enforced at runtime using processor support, which ensures that the runtime follows a tested interleaving. We analyze several bugs in open source applications such as MySQL, Apache, Mozilla, etc., and show that, by enforcing PSet constraints, we can avoid not only data races and atomicity violations, but also other forms of concurrency bugs.