Acquire-Release Semantic - The typical Misunderstanding

A release operation synchronizes-with an acquire operation on the same atomic variable. So we can easily synchronise threads, if ... . Today's post is about the if.

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memory_order_consume

std::memory_order_consume is the most legendary of the six memory models. That's for two reasons. At one hand, std::memory_order_consume is extremely hard to get. At the other hand - that may change in the future - no compiler supports it.

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Transitivity of the Acquire-Release Semantic

A release operation synchronises with an acquire operation on the same atomic variable and establishes, in addition, an ordering constraints. These are the components to synchronise threads in a performant way, in case they act on the same atomic. But how can that work, if two threads share no atomic variable? We want no sequential consistency because that is too heavy. We want the light acquire-release semantic.

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Acquire-Release Semantic

With the acquire-release semantic the memory model gets very thrilling. Because now, we have not to reason about the synchronisation of threads, now we have to reason about the synchronisation of the same atomic in different threads.

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Sequential Consistency applied

I have introduced In the post Sequential Consistency the default memory model. This model, in which all operations in all threads takes place in a global time clock, has a big advantage but also a big disadvantage.

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Synchronization and Ordering Constraints

In this post, our tour through the c++ memory model goes one step deeper. Until now, the posts were only about the atomicity of the atomic data types but now we deal with the synchronisation and ordering constraints of the operations.

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Atomics

In addition to booleans, there are atomics for pointers, integrals and user defined types. The rules for user-defined types are special.

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The Atomic Boolean

The remaining atomics - in contrast to std::atomic_flag - are partial or full specialisations of the class template std::atomic. Let's start with std::atomic<bool>.

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The Atomic Flag

Atomics guarantee two characteristics. At one hand, they are atomic, at the other hand, they provide synchronisation and order constraints on the program execution.

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Sequential Consistency

The atomics are the base of the C++ memory model. Per default, sequential consistency is applied.

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