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Subject[PATCH RFC 1/1] doc/rcu: Add some more listRCU patterns in the kernel
We keep the initially written audit examples and add to it, since the
code that audit has is still relevant even though slightly different in
the kernel.

Signed-off-by: Joel Fernandes (Google) <>
Documentation/RCU/listRCU.txt | 154 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++---
1 file changed, 144 insertions(+), 10 deletions(-)

diff --git a/Documentation/RCU/listRCU.txt b/Documentation/RCU/listRCU.txt
index adb5a3782846..af5bf1bd689c 100644
--- a/Documentation/RCU/listRCU.txt
+++ b/Documentation/RCU/listRCU.txt
@@ -7,8 +7,54 @@ is that all of the required memory barriers are included for you in
the list macros. This document describes several applications of RCU,
with the best fits first.

-Example 1: Read-Side Action Taken Outside of Lock, No In-Place Updates
+Example 1: Read-mostly list: Deferred Destruction
+A widely used usecase for RCU lists in the kernel is lockless iteration over
+all processes in the system. task_struct::tasks represents the list node that
+links all the processes. The list can be traversed in parallel to any list
+additions or removals.
+The traversal of the list is done using for_each_process() which is defined by
+the 2 macros:
+#define next_task(p) \
+ list_entry_rcu((p)->, struct task_struct, tasks)
+#define for_each_process(p) \
+ for (p = &init_task ; (p = next_task(p)) != &init_task ; )
+The code traversing the list of all processes typically looks like:
+for_each_process(p) {
+ /* Do something with p */
+Thes code (simplified) removing a process from the task lists is in
+void release_task(struct task_struct *p)
+ write_lock(&tasklist_lock);
+ list_del_rcu(&p->tasks);
+ write_unlock(&tasklist_lock);
+ call_rcu(&p->rcu, delayed_put_task_struct);
+When a process exits, release_task() calls list_del_rcu(&p->tasks) to remove
+the task from the list of all tasks, under tasklist_lock writer lock
+protection. The tasklist_lock prevents concurrent list adds/removes from
+corrupting the list. Readers using for_each_process() are not protected with
+the tasklist_lock. To prevent readers from appearing to notice changes in the
+list pointers, the task_struct object is freed only after one more more grace
+periods elapse (with the help of call_rcu). This deferring of destruction
+ensures that any readers traversing the list will see valid p->
+pointers and deletion/freeing can happen in parallel to traversal of the list.
+This pattern is also called an "existence lock" sometimes, since RCU makes sure
+the object exists in memory as long as readers exist, that are traversing.
+Example 2: Read-Side Action Taken Outside of Lock, No In-Place Updates

The best applications are cases where, if reader-writer locking were
used, the read-side lock would be dropped before taking any action
@@ -32,7 +78,7 @@ implementation of audit_filter_task() might be as follows:
enum audit_state state;

- /* Note: audit_netlink_sem held by caller. */
+ /* Note: audit_filter_mutex held by caller. */
list_for_each_entry(e, &audit_tsklist, list) {
if (audit_filter_rules(tsk, &e->rule, NULL, &state)) {
@@ -56,7 +102,7 @@ This means that RCU can be easily applied to the read side, as follows:
enum audit_state state;

- /* Note: audit_netlink_sem held by caller. */
+ /* Note: audit_filter_mutex held by caller. */
list_for_each_entry_rcu(e, &audit_tsklist, list) {
if (audit_filter_rules(tsk, &e->rule, NULL, &state)) {
@@ -139,7 +185,7 @@ Following are the RCU equivalents for these two functions:

Normally, the write_lock() and write_unlock() would be replaced by
a spin_lock() and a spin_unlock(), but in this case, all callers hold
-audit_netlink_sem, so no additional locking is required. The auditsc_lock
+audit_filter_mutex, so no additional locking is required. The auditsc_lock
can therefore be eliminated, since use of RCU eliminates the need for
writers to exclude readers. Normally, the write_lock() calls would
be converted into spin_lock() calls.
@@ -155,7 +201,7 @@ So, when readers can tolerate stale data and when entries are either added
or deleted, without in-place modification, it is very easy to use RCU!

-Example 2: Handling In-Place Updates
+Example 3: Handling In-Place Updates

The system-call auditing code does not update auditing rules in place.
However, if it did, reader-writer-locked code to do so might look as
@@ -171,7 +217,7 @@ otherwise, the added fields would need to be filled in):
struct audit_newentry *ne;

- /* Note: audit_netlink_sem held by caller. */
+ /* Note: audit_filter_mutex held by caller. */
list_for_each_entry(e, list, list) {
if (!audit_compare_rule(rule, &e->rule)) {
e->rule.action = newaction;
@@ -213,13 +259,23 @@ RCU ("read-copy update") its name. The RCU code is as follows:
return -EFAULT; /* No matching rule */

-Again, this assumes that the caller holds audit_netlink_sem. Normally,
+Again, this assumes that the caller holds audit_filter_mutex. Normally,
the reader-writer lock would become a spinlock in this sort of code.

+Another use of this pattern can be found in the openswitch driver's "connection
+tracking table" code (ct_limit_set()). The table holds connection tracking
+entries and has a limit on the maximum entries. There is one such table
+per-zone and hence one "limit" per zone. The zones are mapped to their limits
+through a hashtable using an RCU-managed hlist for the hash chains. When a new
+limit is to be set, a new limit object is allocated and ct_limit_set() is
+called to replace the old limit object with the new one using
+list_replace_rcu(). The old limit object is then freed after a grace period
+using kfree_rcu().

-Example 3: Eliminating Stale Data
+Example 4: Eliminating Stale Data

-The auditing examples above tolerate stale data, as do most algorithms
+The auditing exampes above tolerates stale data, as do most algorithms
that are tracking external state. Because there is a delay from the
time the external state changes before Linux becomes aware of the change,
additional RCU-induced staleness is normally not a problem.
@@ -291,6 +347,84 @@ flag under the spinlock as follows:

+EXAMPLE 5: Skipping Stale Objects
+Stale data can also be eliminated for performance reasons since it is pointless
+to process items in a list, if the object is being destroyed. One such example
+can be found in the timerfd subsystem. When a CLOCK_REALTIME clock is
+reprogrammed - for example due to setting of the system time, then all programmed
+timerfds that depend on this clock get triggered and processes waiting on them
+to expire are woken up in advance of their scheduled expiry. To facilitate
+this, all such timers are added to a 'cancel_list' when they are setup in
+static void timerfd_setup_cancel(struct timerfd_ctx *ctx, int flags)
+ spin_lock(&ctx->cancel_lock);
+ if ((ctx->clockid == CLOCK_REALTIME &&
+ (flags & TFD_TIMER_ABSTIME) && (flags & TFD_TIMER_CANCEL_ON_SET)) {
+ if (!ctx->might_cancel) {
+ ctx->might_cancel = true;
+ spin_lock(&cancel_lock);
+ list_add_rcu(&ctx->clist, &cancel_list);
+ spin_unlock(&cancel_lock);
+ }
+ }
+ spin_unlock(&ctx->cancel_lock);
+When a timerfd is freed (fd is closed), then the might_cancel flag of the
+timerfd object is cleared, the object removed from the cancel_list and destroyed:
+int timerfd_release(struct inode *inode, struct file *file)
+ struct timerfd_ctx *ctx = file->private_data;
+ spin_lock(&ctx->cancel_lock);
+ if (ctx->might_cancel) {
+ ctx->might_cancel = false;
+ spin_lock(&cancel_lock);
+ list_del_rcu(&ctx->clist);
+ spin_unlock(&cancel_lock);
+ }
+ spin_unlock(&ctx->cancel_lock);
+ hrtimer_cancel(&ctx->t.tmr);
+ kfree_rcu(ctx, rcu);
+ return 0;
+If the CLOCK_REALTIME clock is set, for example by a time server, the hrtimer
+framework calls timerfd_clock_was_set() which walks the cancel_list and wakes
+up processes waiting on the timerfd. While iterating the cancel list, the
+might_cancel flag is consulted to skip stale objects:
+void timerfd_clock_was_set(void)
+ struct timerfd_ctx *ctx;
+ unsigned long flags;
+ rcu_read_lock();
+ list_for_each_entry_rcu(ctx, &cancel_list, clist) {
+ if (!ctx->might_cancel)
+ continue;
+ spin_lock_irqsave(&ctx->wqh.lock, flags);
+ if (ctx->moffs != ktime_mono_to_real(0)) {
+ ctx->moffs = KTIME_MAX;
+ ctx->ticks++;
+ wake_up_locked_poll(&ctx->wqh, EPOLLIN);
+ }
+ spin_unlock_irqrestore(&ctx->wqh.lock, flags);
+ }
+ rcu_read_unlock();
+The key point here is, because RCU-traversal of the cancel_list happens while
+objects are being added and removed to the list, sometimes the traversal can
+step on an object that has been removed from the list. In this example, it is
+seen that it is better to skip such objects using a flag.

Read-mostly list-based data structures that can tolerate stale data are
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