A spanking new ReaderWriterSpinlock

Well, I never. There is life in the old spinlock yet!

Being a synchronisation fetishist, I took great interest in last week’s great blog post by Sanjay Mishra and Arvind Shyamsundar about the ReaderWriterSpinlock added in 2016 CU2. Great story, happy ending, room for a sequel, all good news.

We have already seen recent improvement in the reader-writer lock algorithm, so clearly people are finding more corners to squeeze. Now what, pray tell, is a reader-writer spinlock?
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The Latch Files 2: The spinlock that dares not speak its name

Spinlocks live among us. We see them on duty, in uniform, and greet them by name. When we interact, they show a badge and leave a receipt for the time they eroded from our working day. Or so we’d like to think.

A spinlock headbanging orgy
A spinlock headbanging party in full spin

When looking at the 2016 SOS_RWLock, we came across the one-bit spinlock buried within its Count member. Since it protects a very simple wait structure, someone evidently made the decision that it is cheap enough to spin aggressively until acquired, with no backoff logic. This suggests that a low degree of spinlock contention is anticipated, either because few threads are expected to try and acquire the lock simultaneously or because the amount of business to be done while holding the lock is very light and likely to finish quickly.
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The Latch Files: Out for the count

Time to start chipping away at the monster subject of storage engine latches. If you’re anything like me, you were really impressed by the expositions of latches done by James Rowland-Jones (in Professional SQL Server 2008 Internals and Troubleshooting) and Bob Ward (PASS Summit “Inside Latches” session) when this information first started dribbling out. Now we have reached a point in history where latches seem to be used as a swear word. Well, for the record, I am still fascinated by them, and their internals are pretty darn marvellous.

Today I’m going to keep it comparatively focused, looking at nothing other than the Count member of the LatchBase class. Specifically, I’ll only be considering the act of acquiring an uncontended un-promoted latch, based on the SQL Server 2014 and 2016 latch implementation.
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Unsung SQLOS: SOS_WaitableAddress

One of the more amusing words in the SQL Server synchronisation lexicon is “lightweight”. Locks bad. Nolocks good. Latches lightweight. The more spinlocks you eat, the more wait you lose!

If only things were that simple… But hey, I love the poetry of compromise. Check out the SOS_WaitableAddress for one of the many competing definitions of “lightweight”.
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Unsung SQLOS: the 2016 SOS_RWLock


Talk about serendipity. I’ve been working on a progression of blog posts that would include dealing with the SOS_RWLock in both 2014 and 2016 versions, and today is a perfect excuse to align it with the 2016-themed T-SQL Tuesday hosted by Michael J Swart.

The 2014 incarnation of the SOS_RWLock looked sensible enough, but since we’ve been told it was improved, it’s a great opportunity to see how one goes about tuning a lock algorithm. So with lock-picking tools in hand, follow me to the launch party of the Spring 2016 SQLOS collection to see what the hype is all about. Is the 2014 implementation truly Derelocte?
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Unsung SQLOS: the classic SOS_RWLock

Moving along with our bestiary of synchronisation classes, the SOS_RWLock, a reader-writer lock, feels like a logical next stop. It has been in the news recently, it has fairly simple semantics, and it is built upon primitives that we have already explored, namely spinlocks, linked lists and the EventInternal class. Its implementation is quite a leap from the simple SOS_Mutex and there is more scope for alternative implementations providing the same functionality. And, would you believe it, as called out by Bob Dorr, the 2012/2014 implementation has now been found wanting and got rewritten for 2016. Today we’re looking at the “classic” version though, because we then get the chance to understand the 2016 rewrite in terms of concrete design decisions. (Update: I examine the 2016 update here).
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Unsung SQLOS: the SOS_Mutex

A mutex, short for “mutual exclusion”, is arguably the simplest waitable synchronisation construct you can imagine. It exposes methods for acquisition and release, and the semantics are straightforward:

  • Initially it isn’t “owned”, and anybody who asks to acquire it is granted ownership
  • While owned, anybody else who comes around to try and acquire it must wait her turn
  • When the owner is done with it, the mutex is released, which then transfers ownership to one waiter (if any) and unpends that waiter

A mutex can also validly be referred to as a critical section, in the sense that it protects a critical section of code, or more accurately, data. When programming libraries expose both a mutex and a critical section, as Windows does, it really just reflects different implementations of synchronisation objects with the same semantics. You could also consider a spinlock to be a flavour of mutex: while the name “spinlock” describes the mechanism by which competing threads jostle for exclusive ownership (it can’t be politely waited upon), the idea of mutual exclusion with at most one concurrent owner still applies.

SOS_Mutex class layout and interface

This class is directly derived from EventInternal<SuspendQSlock>, with three modifications:

  1. The addition of an ExclusiveOwner member.
  2. The override of the Wait() method to implement mutex-specific semantics, although the main act of waiting is still delegated to the base class method.
  3. The addition of an AddAsOwner() method, called by Wait(), which crowns the ambient task as the exclusive owner after a successful wait.

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Unsung SQLOS: the EventInternal

Today we’re taking a step towards scheduler territory by examining the EventInternal class, the granddaddy of SQLOS synchronisation objects. At the outset, let’s get one formality out of the way: although it is a template class taking a spinlock type as template parameter, we only see it instantiated as EventInternal<SuspendQSLock> as of SQL Server 2014. What this means is that spins on its internal spinlock is always going to be showing up as SOS_SUSPEND_QUEUE.

It’s a very simple class (deceptively so even) which can implement a few different event flavours, doing its waiting via SQLOS scheduler methods rather than directly involving the Windows kernel. The desire to keep things simple and – as far as possible – keep control flow out of kernel mode is a very common goal for threading libraries and frameworks. .Net is a good frame of reference here, because it is well documented, but the pattern exists within OS APIs too, where the power and generality of kernel-mode code has to be weighed off against the cost of getting there.
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