Hardware Acceleration of Software Transactional Memory


Transactional memory (TM) systems seek to increase scalabil-ity, reduce programming complexity, and overcome the various semantic problems associated with locks. Software TM proposals run on stock processors and provide substantial flexibility in policy, but incur significant overhead for data versioning and validation in the face of conflicting transactions. Hardware TM proposals have the advantage of speed, but are typically highly ambitious, embed significant amounts of policy in silicon, and provide no clear migration path for software that must also run on legacy machines. We advocate an intermediate approach, in which hardware is used to accelerate a TM implementation controlled fundamentally by software. We present a system, RTM, that embodies this approach. It consists of a novel transactional MESI (TMESI) protocol and accompanying TM software. TMESI eliminates the key software overheads of data copying, garbage collection, and validation , without introducing any global consensus algorithm in the cache coherence protocol (a commit is allowed to perform using only a few cycles of completely local operation). The only change to the snooping interface is a " threatened " signal analogous to the existing " shared " signal. By leaving policy to software, RTM allows us to experiment with a wide variety of policies for contention management, deadlock and livelock avoidance, data granularity, nesting, and virtual-ization.

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