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Date:   Thu, 2 Nov 2017 13:08:52 -0400 (EDT)
From:   Alan Stern <>
To:     Peter Zijlstra <>
cc:     "Reshetova, Elena" <>,
        "" <>,
        "" <>,
        "" <>,
        "" <>,
        "" <>,
        "" <>,
        Will Deacon <>,
        Paul McKenney <>,
        <>, <>,
        <>, <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH] refcount: provide same memory ordering guarantees as in

On Thu, 2 Nov 2017, Peter Zijlstra wrote:

> On Thu, Nov 02, 2017 at 11:40:35AM -0400, Alan Stern wrote:
> > On Thu, 2 Nov 2017, Peter Zijlstra wrote:
> > 
> > > > Lock functions such as refcount_dec_and_lock() &
> > > > refcount_dec_and_mutex_lock() Provide exactly the same guarantees as
> > > > they atomic counterparts. 
> > > 
> > > Nope. The atomic_dec_and_lock() provides smp_mb() while
> > > refcount_dec_and_lock() merely orders all prior load/store's against all
> > > later load/store's.
> > 
> > In fact there is no guaranteed ordering when refcount_dec_and_lock()  
> > returns false; 
> It should provide a release:
>  - if !=1, dec_not_one will provide release
>  - if ==1, dec_not_one will no-op, but then we'll acquire the lock and
>    dec_and_test will provide the release, even if the test fails and we
>    unlock again it should still dec.
> The one exception is when the counter is saturated, but in that case
> we'll never free the object and the ordering is moot in any case.

Also if the counter is 0, but that will never happen if the 
refcounting is correct.

> > it provides ordering only if the return value is true.  
> > In which case it provides acquire ordering (thanks to the spin_lock),
> > and both release ordering and a control dependency (thanks to the
> > refcount_dec_and_test).
> > 
> > > The difference is subtle and involves at least 3 CPUs. I can't seem to
> > > write up anything simple, keeps turning into monsters :/ Will, Paul,
> > > have you got anything simple around?
> > 
> > The combination of acquire + release is not the same as smp_mb, because 
> acquire+release is nothing, its release+acquire that I meant which
> should order things locally, but now that you've got me looking at it
> again, we don't in fact do that.
> So refcount_dec_and_lock() will provide a release, irrespective of the
> return value (assuming we're not saturated). If it returns true, it also
> does an acquire for the lock.
> But combined they're acquire+release, which is unfortunate.. it means
> the lock section and the refcount stuff overlaps, but I don't suppose
> that's actually a problem. Need to consider more.

Right.  To address your point: release + acquire isn't the same as a
full barrier either.  The SB pattern illustrates the difference:

	P0		P1
	Write x=1	Write y=1
	Release a	smp_mb
	Acquire b	Read x=0
	Read y=0

This would not be allowed if the release + acquire sequence was 
replaced by smp_mb.  But as it stands, this is allowed because nothing 
prevents the CPU from interchanging the order of the release and the 
acquire -- and then you're back to the acquire + release case.

However, there is one circumstance where this interchange isn't 
allowed: when the release and acquire access the same memory 
location.  Thus:

	P0(int *x, int *y, int *a)
		int r0;

		WRITE_ONCE(*x, 1);
		smp_store_release(a, 1);
		r0 = READ_ONCE(*y);

	P1(int *x, int *y)
		int r1;

		WRITE_ONCE(*y, 1);
		r1 = READ_ONCE(*x);

	exists (0:r0=0 /\ 1:r1=0)

This is forbidden.  It would remain forbidden even if the smp_mb in P1 
were replaced by a similar release/acquire pair for the same memory 

To see the difference between smp_mb and release/acquire requires three 

	P0		P1		P2
	Write x=1	Read y=1	Read z=1
	Release a	data dep.	smp_rmb
	Acquire a	Write z=1	Read x=0
	Write y=1

The Linux Kernel Memory Model allows this execution, although as far as 
I know, no existing hardware will do it.  But with smp_mb in P0, the 
execution would be forbidden.

None of this should be a problem for refcount_dec_and_lock, assuming it 
is used purely for reference counting.

Alan Stern

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