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.. _array_rcu_doc:
Using RCU to Protect Read-Mostly Arrays
Although RCU is more commonly used to protect linked lists, it can
also be used to protect arrays. Three situations are as follows:
1. :ref:`Hash Tables <hash_tables>`
2. :ref:`Static Arrays <static_arrays>`
3. :ref:`Resizable Arrays <resizable_arrays>`
Each of these three situations involves an RCU-protected pointer to an
array that is separately indexed. It might be tempting to consider use
of RCU to instead protect the index into an array, however, this use
case is **not** supported. The problem with RCU-protected indexes into
arrays is that compilers can play way too many optimization games with
integers, which means that the rules governing handling of these indexes
are far more trouble than they are worth. If RCU-protected indexes into
arrays prove to be particularly valuable (which they have not thus far),
explicit cooperation from the compiler will be required to permit them
to be safely used.
That aside, each of the three RCU-protected pointer situations are
described in the following sections.
.. _hash_tables:
Situation 1: Hash Tables
Hash tables are often implemented as an array, where each array entry
has a linked-list hash chain. Each hash chain can be protected by RCU
as described in the listRCU.txt document. This approach also applies
to other array-of-list situations, such as radix trees.
.. _static_arrays:
Situation 2: Static Arrays
Static arrays, where the data (rather than a pointer to the data) is
located in each array element, and where the array is never resized,
have not been used with RCU. Rik van Riel recommends using seqlock in
this situation, which would also have minimal read-side overhead as long
as updates are rare.
Quick Quiz:
Why is it so important that updates be rare when using seqlock?
:ref:`Answer to Quick Quiz <answer_quick_quiz_seqlock>`
.. _resizable_arrays:
Situation 3: Resizable Arrays
Use of RCU for resizable arrays is demonstrated by the grow_ary()
function formerly used by the System V IPC code. The array is used
to map from semaphore, message-queue, and shared-memory IDs to the data
structure that represents the corresponding IPC construct. The grow_ary()
function does not acquire any locks; instead its caller must hold the
ids->sem semaphore.
The grow_ary() function, shown below, does some limit checks, allocates a
new ipc_id_ary, copies the old to the new portion of the new, initializes
the remainder of the new, updates the ids->entries pointer to point to
the new array, and invokes ipc_rcu_putref() to free up the old array.
Note that rcu_assign_pointer() is used to update the ids->entries pointer,
which includes any memory barriers required on whatever architecture
you are running on::
static int grow_ary(struct ipc_ids* ids, int newsize)
struct ipc_id_ary* new;
struct ipc_id_ary* old;
int i;
int size = ids->entries->size;
if(newsize > IPCMNI)
newsize = IPCMNI;
if(newsize <= size)
return newsize;
new = ipc_rcu_alloc(sizeof(struct kern_ipc_perm *)*newsize +
sizeof(struct ipc_id_ary));
if(new == NULL)
return size;
new->size = newsize;
memcpy(new->p, ids->entries->p,
sizeof(struct kern_ipc_perm *)*size +
sizeof(struct ipc_id_ary));
for(i=size;i<newsize;i++) {
new->p[i] = NULL;
old = ids->entries;
* Use rcu_assign_pointer() to make sure the memcpyed
* contents of the new array are visible before the new
* array becomes visible.
rcu_assign_pointer(ids->entries, new);
return newsize;
The ipc_rcu_putref() function decrements the array's reference count
and then, if the reference count has dropped to zero, uses call_rcu()
to free the array after a grace period has elapsed.
The array is traversed by the ipc_lock() function. This function
indexes into the array under the protection of rcu_read_lock(),
using rcu_dereference() to pick up the pointer to the array so
that it may later safely be dereferenced -- memory barriers are
required on the Alpha CPU. Since the size of the array is stored
with the array itself, there can be no array-size mismatches, so
a simple check suffices. The pointer to the structure corresponding
to the desired IPC object is placed in "out", with NULL indicating
a non-existent entry. After acquiring "out->lock", the "out->deleted"
flag indicates whether the IPC object is in the process of being
deleted, and, if not, the pointer is returned::
struct kern_ipc_perm* ipc_lock(struct ipc_ids* ids, int id)
struct kern_ipc_perm* out;
int lid = id % SEQ_MULTIPLIER;
struct ipc_id_ary* entries;
entries = rcu_dereference(ids->entries);
if(lid >= entries->size) {
return NULL;
out = entries->p[lid];
if(out == NULL) {
return NULL;
/* ipc_rmid() may have already freed the ID while ipc_lock
* was spinning: here verify that the structure is still valid
if (out->deleted) {
return NULL;
return out;
.. _answer_quick_quiz_seqlock:
Answer to Quick Quiz:
Why is it so important that updates be rare when using seqlock?
The reason that it is important that updates be rare when
using seqlock is that frequent updates can livelock readers.
One way to avoid this problem is to assign a seqlock for
each array entry rather than to the entire array.