Documentation / RCU / rcuref.rst


Based on kernel version 5.11. Page generated on 2021-02-15 21:59 EST.

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.. SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0

====================================================================
Reference-count design for elements of lists/arrays protected by RCU
====================================================================


Please note that the percpu-ref feature is likely your first
stop if you need to combine reference counts and RCU.  Please see
include/linux/percpu-refcount.h for more information.  However, in
those unusual cases where percpu-ref would consume too much memory,
please read on.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Reference counting on elements of lists which are protected by traditional
reader/writer spinlocks or semaphores are straightforward:

CODE LISTING A::

    1.					    2.
    add()				    search_and_reference()
    {					    {
	alloc_object				read_lock(&list_lock);
	...					search_for_element
	atomic_set(&el->rc, 1);			atomic_inc(&el->rc);
	write_lock(&list_lock);			 ...
	add_element				read_unlock(&list_lock);
	...					...
	write_unlock(&list_lock);	   }
    }

    3.					    4.
    release_referenced()		    delete()
    {					    {
	...					write_lock(&list_lock);
	if(atomic_dec_and_test(&el->rc))	...
	    kfree(el);
	...					remove_element
    }						write_unlock(&list_lock);
						...
						if (atomic_dec_and_test(&el->rc))
						    kfree(el);
						...
					    }

If this list/array is made lock free using RCU as in changing the
write_lock() in add() and delete() to spin_lock() and changing read_lock()
in search_and_reference() to rcu_read_lock(), the atomic_inc() in
search_and_reference() could potentially hold reference to an element which
has already been deleted from the list/array.  Use atomic_inc_not_zero()
in this scenario as follows:

CODE LISTING B::

    1.					    2.
    add()				    search_and_reference()
    {					    {
	alloc_object				rcu_read_lock();
	...					search_for_element
	atomic_set(&el->rc, 1);			if (!atomic_inc_not_zero(&el->rc)) {
	spin_lock(&list_lock);			    rcu_read_unlock();
						    return FAIL;
	add_element				}
	...					...
	spin_unlock(&list_lock);		rcu_read_unlock();
    }					    }
    3.					    4.
    release_referenced()		    delete()
    {					    {
	...					spin_lock(&list_lock);
	if (atomic_dec_and_test(&el->rc))	...
	    call_rcu(&el->head, el_free);	remove_element
	...					spin_unlock(&list_lock);
    }						...
						if (atomic_dec_and_test(&el->rc))
						    call_rcu(&el->head, el_free);
						...
					    }

Sometimes, a reference to the element needs to be obtained in the
update (write) stream.	In such cases, atomic_inc_not_zero() might be
overkill, since we hold the update-side spinlock.  One might instead
use atomic_inc() in such cases.

It is not always convenient to deal with "FAIL" in the
search_and_reference() code path.  In such cases, the
atomic_dec_and_test() may be moved from delete() to el_free()
as follows:

CODE LISTING C::

    1.					    2.
    add()				    search_and_reference()
    {					    {
	alloc_object				rcu_read_lock();
	...					search_for_element
	atomic_set(&el->rc, 1);			atomic_inc(&el->rc);
	spin_lock(&list_lock);			...

	add_element				rcu_read_unlock();
	...				    }
	spin_unlock(&list_lock);	    4.
    }					    delete()
    3.					    {
    release_referenced()			spin_lock(&list_lock);
    {						...
	...					remove_element
	if (atomic_dec_and_test(&el->rc))	spin_unlock(&list_lock);
	    kfree(el);				...
	...					call_rcu(&el->head, el_free);
    }						...
    5.					    }
    void el_free(struct rcu_head *rhp)
    {
	release_referenced();
    }

The key point is that the initial reference added by add() is not removed
until after a grace period has elapsed following removal.  This means that
search_and_reference() cannot find this element, which means that the value
of el->rc cannot increase.  Thus, once it reaches zero, there are no
readers that can or ever will be able to reference the element.	 The
element can therefore safely be freed.	This in turn guarantees that if
any reader finds the element, that reader may safely acquire a reference
without checking the value of the reference counter.

A clear advantage of the RCU-based pattern in listing C over the one
in listing B is that any call to search_and_reference() that locates
a given object will succeed in obtaining a reference to that object,
even given a concurrent invocation of delete() for that same object.
Similarly, a clear advantage of both listings B and C over listing A is
that a call to delete() is not delayed even if there are an arbitrarily
large number of calls to search_and_reference() searching for the same
object that delete() was invoked on.  Instead, all that is delayed is
the eventual invocation of kfree(), which is usually not a problem on
modern computer systems, even the small ones.

In cases where delete() can sleep, synchronize_rcu() can be called from
delete(), so that el_free() can be subsumed into delete as follows::

    4.
    delete()
    {
	spin_lock(&list_lock);
	...
	remove_element
	spin_unlock(&list_lock);
	...
	synchronize_rcu();
	if (atomic_dec_and_test(&el->rc))
	    kfree(el);
	...
    }

As additional examples in the kernel, the pattern in listing C is used by
reference counting of struct pid, while the pattern in listing B is used by
struct posix_acl.