libatomic-malloc - Library providing simple almost-lock-free malloc
cc ... -latomic_ops_gpl
Note that the AO_malloc implementation is licensed under the GPL,
unlike the lower level routines.
void *AO_malloc(size_t sz);
void AO_free(void *p);
A simple almost-lock-free malloc implementation.
This is intended as a safe way to allocate memory from a signal
handler, or to allocate memory in the context of a library that does
not know what thread library it will be used with. In either case
locking is impossible.
Note that the operations are only guaranteed to be 1-lock-free, i.e. a
single blocked thread will not prevent progress, but multiple blocked
threads may. To safely use these operations in a signal handler, the
handler should be non-reentrant, i.e. it should not be interruptable by
another handler using these operations. Furthermore use outside of
signal handlers in a multithreaded application should be protected by a
lock, so that at most one invocation may be interrupted by a signal.
The header will define the macro AO_MALLOC_IS_LOCK_FREE on platforms on
which malloc is completely lock-free, and hence these restrictions do
In the presence of threads, but absence of contention, the time
performance of this package should be as good, or slightly better than,
most system malloc implementations. Its space performance is
theoretically optimal (to within a constant factor), but probably quite
poor in practice. In particular, no attempt is made to coalesce free
small memory blocks. Something like Doug Lea’s malloc is likely to use
significantly less memory for complex applications.
Perfomance on platforms without an efficient compare-and-swap
implementation will be poor.
This package was not designed for processor-scalability in the face of
high allocation rates. If all threads happen to allocate
different-sized objects, you might get lucky. Otherwise expect
contention and false-sharing problems. If this is an issue, something
like Maged Michael’s algorithm (PLDI 2004) would be technically a far
better choice. If you are concerned only with scalablity, and not
signal-safety, you might also consider using Hoard instead. We have
seen a factor of 3 to 4 slowdown from the standard glibc malloc
implementation with contention, even when the performance without
contention was faster. (To make the implementation more scalable, one
would need to replicate at least the free list headers, so that
concurrent access is possible without cache conflicts.)
Unfortunately there is no portable async-signal-safe way to obtain
large chunks of memory from the OS. Based on reading of the source
code, mmap-based allocation appears safe under Linux, and probably BSD
variants. It is probably unsafe for operating systems built on Mach,
such as Apple’s Darwin. Without use of mmap, the allocator is limited
to a fixed size, statically preallocated heap (2MB by default), and
will fail to allocate objects above a certain size (just under 64K by
default). Use of mmap to circumvent these limitations requires an
The entire interface to the AO_malloc package currently consists of:
Allocate an area of memory
Free a previously malloced memory area
Enable mmap for large malloc chunks
This manual page was written by Ian Wienand <email@example.com>,
based on comments in the source code. It was written for the Debian
project (but may be used by others).