Paper: Read-Copy Update

With multicore machines now the norm, writing code that scales and performs well in multithreaded scenarios is becoming extremely important. I was thus delighted to discover the paper on Read-Copy Update – a technique to implement data structures with no locking on reads. Modifications (writes or deletes) still use some sort of locking mechanism, but the idea is that the ratio of reads to modifications is so large that by eliminating the overheads of synchronization on the read path we improve the performance of our code significantly.

This paper is extremely well written with lots of code samples. I specifically liked section 7 that compared read-copy update with other locking algorithms. Section 3 is also great because it allows one to answer the question “Can I use read-copy update for my data structure and its expected access pattern?”

Read-copy update is a simple (at least in terms of the general idea; the actual code implementation is tricky) and elegant solution for building high performance concurrent data structures (for certain usage patterns). It is definitely a topic I will be exploring further in the future.

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