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SubjectRe: [PATCH RFC LKMM 1/7] tools/memory-model: Add extra ordering for locks and remove it for ordinary release/acquire
> The updated Changelog draft is below.
> Alan.
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> More than one kernel developer has expressed the opinion that the LKMM
> should enforce ordering of writes by locking. In other words, given
> the following code:
> WRITE_ONCE(x, 1);
> spin_unlock(&s):
> spin_lock(&s);
> WRITE_ONCE(y, 1);
> the stores to x and y should be propagated in order to all other CPUs,
> even though those other CPUs might not access the lock s. In terms of
> the memory model, this means expanding the cumul-fence relation.
> Locks should also provide read-read (and read-write) ordering in a
> similar way. Given:
> spin_unlock(&s);
> spin_lock(&s);
> READ_ONCE(y); // or WRITE_ONCE(y, 1);
> the load of x should be executed before the load of (or store to) y.
> The LKMM already provides this ordering, but it provides it even in
> the case where the two accesses are separated by a release/acquire
> pair of fences rather than unlock/lock. This would prevent
> architectures from using weakly ordered implementations of release and
> acquire, which seems like an unnecessary restriction. The patch
> therefore removes the ordering requirement from the LKMM for that
> case.
> There are several arguments both for and against this change. Let us
> refer to these enhanced ordering properties by saying that the LKMM
> would require locks to be RCtso (a bit of a misnomer, but analogous to
> RCpc and RCsc) and it would require ordinary acquire/release only to
> be RCpc. (Note: In the following, the phrase "all supported
> architectures" is meant not to include RISC-V. Although RISC-V is
> indeed supported by the kernel, the implementation is still somewhat
> in a state of flux and therefore statements about it would be
> premature.)
> Pros:
> The kernel already provides RCtso ordering for locks on all
> supported architectures, even though this is not stated
> explicitly anywhere. Therefore the LKMM should formalize it.
> In theory, guaranteeing RCtso ordering would reduce the need
> for additional barrier-like constructs meant to increase the
> ordering strength of locks.
> Will Deacon and Peter Zijlstra are strongly in favor of
> formalizing the RCtso requirement. Linus Torvalds and Peter
> would like to go even further, requiring locks to have RCsc
> behavior (ordering preceding writes against later reads), but
> they recognize that this would incur a noticeable performance
> degradation on the POWER architecture. Linus also points out
> that people have made the mistake, in the past, of assuming
> that locking has stronger ordering properties than is
> currently guaranteed, and this change would reduce the
> likelihood of such mistakes.
> Not requiring ordinary acquire/release to be any stronger than
> RCpc may prove advantageous for future architectures, allowing
> them to implement smp_load_acquire() and smp_store_release()
> with more efficient machine instructions than would be
> possible if the operations had to be RCtso. Will and Linus
> approve this rationale, hypothetical though it is at the
> moment (it may end up affecting the RISC-V implementation).
> The same argument may or may not apply to RMW-acquire/release;
> see also the second Con entry below.
> Linus feels that locks should be easy for people to use
> without worrying about memory consistency issues, since they
> are so pervasive in the kernel, whereas acquire/release is
> much more of an "experts only" tool. Requiring locks to be
> RCtso is a step in this direction.
> Cons:
> Andrea Parri and Luc Maranget think that locks should have the
> same ordering properties as ordinary acquire/release (indeed,
> Luc points out that the names "acquire" and "release" derive
> from the usage of locks). Andrea points out that having
> different ordering properties for different forms of acquires
> and releases is not only unnecessary, it would also be
> confusing and unmaintainable.
> Locks are constructed from lower-level primitives, typically
> RMW-acquire (for locking) and ordinary release (for unlock).
> It is illogical to require stronger ordering properties from
> the high-level operations than from the low-level operations
> they comprise. Thus, this change would make
> while (cmpxchg_acquire(&s, 0, 1) != 0)
> cpu_relax();
> an incorrect implementation of spin_lock(&s) as far as the
> LKMM is concerned. In theory this weakness can be ameliorated
> by changing the LKMM even further, requiring
> RMW-acquire/release also to be RCtso (which it already is on
> all supported architectures).
> As far as I know, nobody has singled out any examples of code
> in the kernel that actually relies on locks being RCtso.
> (People mumble about RCU and the scheduler, but nobody has
> pointed to any actual code. If there are any real cases,
> their number is likely quite small.) If RCtso ordering is not
> needed, why require it?
> A handful of locking constructs (qspinlocks, qrwlocks, and
> mcs_spinlocks) are built on top of smp_cond_load_acquire()
> instead of an RMW-acquire instruction. It currently provides
> only the ordinary acquire semantics, not the stronger ordering
> this patch would require of locks. In theory this could be
> ameliorated by requiring smp_cond_load_acquire() in
> combination with ordinary release also to be RCtso (which is
> currently true on all supported architectures).
> On future weakly ordered architectures, people may be able to
> implement locks in a non-RCtso fashion with significant
> performance improvement. Meeting the RCtso requirement would
> necessarily add run-time overhead.
> Overall, the technical aspects of these arguments seem relatively
> minor, and it appears mostly to boil down to a matter of opinion.
> Since the opinions of senior kernel maintainers such as Linus,
> Peter, and Will carry more weight than those of Luc and Andrea, this
> patch changes the model in accordance with the maintainers' wishes.
> Signed-off-by: Alan Stern <>

Thank you for integrating the log.

I remain more sensitive to those Cons (and skeptical about that
po-unlock-rf-lock-po), but: (1) this doesn't make an objection,
and (2) you wore me down. ;-)

So unless new arguments are brought to light, feel free to add:

Reviewed-by: Andrea Parri <>


> v.5: Incorporated feedback from Andrea regarding the updated Changelog.
> v.4: Added pros and cons discussion to the Changelog.
> v.3: Rebased against the dev branch of Paul's linux-rcu tree.
> Changed unlock-rf-lock-po to po-unlock-rf-lock-po, making it more
> symmetrical and more in accordance with the use of fence.tso for
> the release on RISC-V.
> v.2: Restrict the ordering to lock operations, not general release
> and acquire fences.

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