Commit 22e1cbe9 authored by simonpj's avatar simonpj
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[project @ 2001-06-04 13:40:39 by simonpj]

Add storage mgt doc
parent a1452368
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% Terminology
\newcommand{\note}[1]{{\em $\spadesuit$ #1}}
\title{The GHC storage manager}
\author{Simon Peyton Jones}
This is a draft design document, not a completed thing.
Storage management goals:
\item Generational collection, supporting multiple generations.
\item The ability to pin the allocation
area into a few pages that we hope will fit entirely in the cache.
\item Allows objects to age within a generation before getting promoted.
\item Heap can grow as needed, rather than having to be pre-sized
by the programmer.
\item We support mark/sweep/compact collection for older generations.
This is a Good Thing when the live memory approaches the available
physical memory, because it reduces paging.
\item Little OS support needed. No mmap etc. All that we require is
the ability to @malloc@ (or whatever) a new chunk of memory.
There can be intervening ``sandbars'' allocated by other programs
(e.g. DLLs or other @malloc@'d structures) between chunks of heap.
\item Possible feature: ability to support mostly-copying conservative
collection.[.bartlett mostly 1989, morrisset mostly.]
Not top priority.
Language-support goals:
\item The garbage collector ``shorts out'' indirection objects introduced
by the mutator (notably when overwriting a thunk with an indirection).
\item The garbage collector executes selector thunks.
For example, a thunk for
@(fst x)@ where @x@ is a pointer to a pair @(a,b)@ would be
evaluated by the garbage collector to just @a@. This is an important
strategy for plugging space leaks.
\item The garbage collector traversese the code tree, as well as
the heap data structures, to find which CAFs are live. This is a Royal Pain.
\item The garbage collector finalises some objects (typically a tiny minority).
At the moment ``finalisation'' means ``call a C routine when this thing
dies'' but it would be more general to schedule a call to a Haskell
Instrumentation goals:
\item The garbage collector can gather heap-census information for profiling.
To this end we can force GC to happen more often than it otherwise would,
and the collector can gather information about the type and cost-centre
associated with each heap object.
Every garbage collector uses assupmtions about the sort of
objects it manipulates, and how the mutator behaves. Here we
collect our assumptions:
\item Each heap object starts with a one-word header that encodes, or points
to, information about the layout of the object. The details of this
encoding aren't fundamental to the collector, but are, of course, rather
\item Every heap pointer points to the beginning of
an object; no pointers into the middle of objects.
\item There are two spare bits in the LSB of a pointer, because
every heap object is at least word aligned.
Heap objects are packed contiguously, with no ``slop'' between them.
This assumption makes it possible to scan a region of heap linearly.
It's easy to arrange that objects are packed contiguously in the
to-space of a copying collector, but the no-slop assumption also
applies during mutation. This is a bit of a pain, because we often
update a thunk with an indirection to the thunk's value; and the
indirection isn't necessarily the same size as the thunk. This can be
solved, but it takes a few more instructions.
We know of two reasons to uphold the no-slop assumption:
\item A {\em mostly-copying conservative (MCC) collector} has to deal with
possible pointers from conservative regions.[.morrisset mostly.]
Given a possible pointer the MCC collector must find the head of the object into
which the putative pointer points. One easy way to do this is
to scan forward from a known point; but only if there is no
\item An {\em incremental collector}
will scan linearly during mutation.[.field while.]
The basic memory structure is similar to other BIBOP-based
collectors.[.stop the bibop, reppy garbage collector, moss garbage toolkit.]
A {\em \block} is a contiguous chunk of $2^K$ bytes, starting on a
$2^K$-byte boundary. We expect a \block{} to be between 4k and 64k bytes.
A \block{} is the unit of allocation for the storage manager. That is,
the {\em block allocator} hands over store to the mutator in multiples of
one \block. (The mutator may then allocate multiple heap objects within
a \block, of course.)
\Block{}s are often allocated individually, but for large
objects, or just to reduce inter-block linkage costs, a
contiguous group of \block{}s can be allocated; we call
this a {\em \block{} group} or sometimes just {\em group}.
The first \block{} of a group is called the {\em group head}.
\subsection{\Block{} descriptors}
Each block has an associated {\em block{} descriptor}, a
record with the following structure:
typedef struct {
int Gen;
int Step;
void *Start;
void *Free;
bdescr *Link
} bdescr;
The function @BDescr(a)@ takes an address @a@ and returns
the address of its block descriptor. It is expected that
@BDescr@ only takes a few instructions (see below).
The field of a \block{} descriptor have the following
@Gen@ & The generation to which this block belongs. The
youngest generation is 0. Valid for all blocks whether or not
it is a group head.
\\ \\
@Step@ & The number of GCs that this block has survived
while within its current generation. Only valid for group heads.
\\ \\
@Start@ & Points to the first byte of the block itself.
Valid for all blocks.
\\ \\
@Free@ & For a group head, @Free@ points to the first free (un-allocated)
byte in the group. For non-group heads, @Free@ is set to zero;
this identifies the \block{} as a non-head.
\\ \\
@Link@ & Used to chain \block{}s together. For non-group-heads,
@Link@ points to the (\block{} descriptor of the) group head.
A {\em \step} is a linked list of \block{} groups, {\em not} necessarily contiguous,
all belonging to the same generation,
and all of which have survived the same number of garbage collections.
We think of a \step{} as {\em logically} contiguous (via their @Link@ fields) even though
it is not physically contiguous.
The \step{} number of a \step{} indicates its age (in GCs) within its generation.
(\Step{} zero is the youngest \step{} in a generation.) During GC of generation G,
live objects
from \step{} N are moved to \step{} N+1, and live objects from \step{} @MaxStep@(G)
are promoted to generation G+1. In this way, objects are given a decent chance
to die before being promoted.
In effect, we record the age for a set of objects grouped by address (the \step{}),
rather than recording the age for each object individually. This is quite
a conventional idea.
A {\em generation} is a set of \step{}s
(not necessarily contiguous). Most allocation takes
place in generation zero, the youngest generation.
The big difference between generations and \step{}s is that:
\item Garbage collection applies to all of generation G and all younger
generations (for some G). You cannot do garbage collection on just
part of a generation.
\item Consequently we have to track inter-generational pointers from
older to younger generations; we do not
track inter-\step{} pointers within a generation.
\subsection{The \block{} allocator}
The {\em \block{} allocator} is responsible for
allocating blocks. It mediates between the higher levels of the
storage manager and the operating system.
It supports the following API:
\item{@InitialiseBlockAllocator()@} initialises the \block{} allocator.
\item{@bdescr *AllocBlocks( int n )@} allocates a {\em contiguous}
group of @n@ \block{}s, returning a pointer to the \block{}
descriptor of the first. Returns @NULL@ if the request can't be
satisfied. The block descriptors of the group are initialised by the block allocator.
\item{@FreeBlocks( bdescr *p )@} returns a block group to the block allocator.
\item{@BDescr( void *p )@} takes a pointer @p@ to any
byte within a block{} and returns a pointer to its \block{}
descriptor. It does no error checking, and fails horribly if the @p@
does not point into a \block{} allocated by the \block{} allocator.
It is probably implemented as an @inline@ procedure.
Our current implementation plan for the \block{} allocator is as
follows. It allocates memory from the OS in {\em megablocks}. A
megablock is a contiguous chunk of memory of $2^M$ bytes or less,
starting on a $2^M$ byte boundary. All the \block{} descriptors are
laid out in an array at the start of the megablock. Each is less than 32 bytes
long. So to get from an address @p@ to its block descriptor, @BDESCR@
does this:
bdescr *BDescr( void *p ) {
return (((p>>(K-5)) & Bmask) | (p & Mmask)));
Depending on how many \block{}s fit in the megablock, the first
one or more descriptors will be unused.
(An alternative design has the \block{} descriptors at the start of
each \block{}. This makes @BDescr@ shorter, but is pessimal for
cache locality when fiddling with \block{} descriptors.
It also means that only the first block in a contiguous chunk of
blocks can have a descriptor. That in turn makes life difficult
for a mostly-copying conservative collector. Given a possible pointer
from a conservative region, a MCC collector needs
to find the start of the object into which the putative pointer
points. One way to do this is to scan from the start of the
contiguous chunk of \block{}s into which the pointer points; and to
find that it helps to have a descriptor for each \block{}.)
The \block{} allocator maintains a pool of free \block{}s.
Because it may be asked for a contiguous chunk of \block{}s it
needs to keep the free-list ordered (or something similar).
\section{The Storage Manager API}
The storage manager supports the following API.
\item[@void *Allocate( int n )@] allocates @n@ bytes and returns
a pointer to the first byte of the block. Returns @NULL@ if
the request could not be satisfied --- @Allocate@ does not call
the garbage collector itself. It is the responsibility of the caller
to completely fill in the allocated chunk with objects packed end to
end. @OpenNursery( void **p_hp, void **p_hplim )@
\item[@OpenNursery( void **p\_hp, void **p\_hplim )@]
returns pointers in @*p_hp@ and @*p_hplim@, to the beginning and end
of a free chunk of store.
More precisely, @*p_hp@ points to the first byte of the region
and @*p_hplim@ to the first byte beyond the end of the region.
@*p_hp@ is set to @NULL@ if there is no chunk available.
@OpenNursery@ is used by the main mutuator to get a chunk of
contiguous store to allocate in. It allocates until @hp@ gets
too close to @hplim@ and then calls @ExtendNursery@ to try
to get a new region of nursery.
\item[@ExtendNursery( void **p\_hp, void **p\_hplim )@]
returns to the storage manager the region handed out by
the previous @OpenNursery@ or @ExtendNursery@. Suppose that
this previous call returned with @*p_hp@ set
to $hp$ and @p_hplim@ set to
Then the @*p_hplim@ given to @ExtendNursery@ should be the same
as $hplim$, and @*p_hp@ should be greater than or equal to $hp$ and
less than or equal to $hplim$.
@ExtendNursery@ tries to find another suitable region. If it
succeeds, it sets @*hp@ and @*hplim@ appropriately; if not, it sets
@*hp@ to @NULL@. The new region is not necessarily contiguous
with the old one.
\note{Maybe @ExtendNursery@ should be a macro, so that we can pass a
globally allocated register to it? (We can't take the address of a register.)
If so then presumably so should @OpenNursery@.}
\item[@ZapNursery()@] arranges that the next call to @ExtendNursery@
will fail. @ZapNursery@ is called by asynchronous interrupts to arrange that
execution is brought to an orderly halt.
\item[@GarbageCollect( void *Roots )@] performs garbage collection.
The parameter @Roots@ is a procedure which is called by the garbage
collector when it wishes to find all the roots. This procedure
should in turn call @MarkRoot@ on each such root.
\item[@void *MarkRoot( void *p )@] informs the garbage collector that
@p@ is a root. It returns the new location of the object.
\item[@RecordMutable( void *p )@] informs the storage manager that
@p@ points to an object that may contain pointers to objects in
a younger generation.
It is not necessary to call @RecordMutable@ on objects known to
be in the nursery.
It is only necessary to call @RecordMutable@ once. For objects that
are genuinely mutable (like mutable arrays), the object is permanently
recorded as mutable. On the other hand, thunks that are updated only
once can be dropped from the mutables pool once their pointer has been
dealt with (promoted).
\item{@boolean InNursery( void *p )@} tells whether @p@ points into
the nursery. This should be a rather fast test; it is used to guard
calls to @RecordMutable@.
We want to experiment with the idea of keeping the youngest generation
entirely in the cache, so that an object might be allocated, used,
and garbage collected without ever hitting main memory.
To do this, generation zero consists of a fixed number of one-\block{}
\segment{}s, carefully allocated in a contiguous address range so that
they fit snugly next to each other in the cache.
(Large objects are allocated directly into generation 1,
so that there is no need to find contiguous \block{}s in generation 0 --- Section~\ref{sect:large}.)
After a GC, the storage manager decides how many generation-0 \segment{}s
(= \block{}s) can be
allocated before the next minor GC; it chains these \segment{}s together
through their @SegLink@ fields. The storage manager then makes the allocation pointer
(@Hp@) point to the start of the first \segment{}, and the limit pointer
(@HpLim@) point to the end of that \segment{}.
Objects are allocated by incrementing the @Hp@ until
it hits @HpLim@. If the @SegLink@ field of the current \segment{} is NIL,
then it is time for GC; otherwise @Hp@ is set to point to the first data
word of the next \segment{},
and @HpLim@ to the end of the \segment{}, and allocation
continues. So between GCs allocation is only interrupted briefly
(i.e. a handful of instructions)
to move @Hp@/@HpLim@ on to the next \segment{}. Actually, this regular
interruption can be useful, because it makes a good moment to pre-empt
a thread to schedule another, or to respond to an interrupt.
(Pre-emption cannot occur at arbitrary times because we are assuming
an accurate garbage collector.)
We expect there to be two \step{}s in generation zero, \step{} 0 and \step{} 1.
At a minor GC we promote live objects in \step{} 1, and copy \step{} 0 to
become a new \step{} 1. The new \step{} 1 should fit also fit into the cache.
Suppose there are 16 generation-zero \segment{}s. A reasonable budget
might be this:
10 \segment{}s to allocate into (\step{} 0) \\
3 \segment{}s for \step{} 1 \\
3 \segment{}s free for the new \step{} 1
This assumes a 30\% survival rate from \step{} 0 to \step{} 1. We can do in-flight
measurements to tune this. And (MOST IMPORTANT) if we get it wrong, and
get a blip in which 9 \segment{}s survive minor GC, all is not lost... we simply
have to use some new \block{}s and generation zero gets bigger for a while
and perhaps less cache resident. (This contrasts with systems which rely
on contiguous partitions, where an overflow is catastrophic, and which must
therefore over-reserve. We get better address-space usage by not having
to be so conservative. Again, this isn't a new observation.)
\section{Doing garbage collection}
When GC happens, we first decide which generation to collect. (How?)
When we collect generation G we collect all younger generations too.
To begin with we assume a copying style garbage collection
algorithm. The structure of a full GC is as follows:
\item Initialise
\item For each root @r@ do @r:=Evacuate(r)@.
\item Scavenge
\item Tidy up
A {\em root} is either a pointer held by the RTS (notably the queue
of runnable threads), or a pointer from a generation > G that might
point into a generation <= G.
The @Evacuate@ operation does this:
Evacuate(p) {
/* Ignore pointers into non-collected generations */
if generation(p) > G then return(p);
/* Copy the object and return its new location */
p' := copy the object pointed to by p into to-space(g);
The @Scavenge@ operation operation does this:
Scavenge() {
While there is an un-scavenged object O in to-space do
for each pointer q in O do
q := Mark(q)
remember that O has been scavenged
We say ``copy into to-space'' and ``find an un-scavenged object in to-space'',
but actually each \step{} of each generation has a separate to-space,
complete with allocation pointer and sweep pointer. (The sweep pointer
finds the un-scavenged objects.) When copying
into a to-space a check must be made for to-space
overflow and a new \segment{} chained on if necessary.
This is much as when the
mutator is doing allocation. The difference is that we are allocating
in multiple \segment{}s in an interleaved fashion, so we can't hold
the allocation pointers in registers.
Only when all the sweep pointers
have reached the corresponding allocation pointer is GC done.
This entails multiple passes through the \step{}s until a pass
finds no un-scavenged objects. [NB: if we treated inter-generational pointers
between generations <= G as roots, then we could avoid some of these multiple
passes. But we'd collect less garbage, and hence copy more
objects, so it would probably be slower.]
Notice that there is no issue about partitioning the address space
among generations, as there might be if each lived in a contiguous address
\section{Large objects}
Large objects are allocated directly in generation 1, each alone in its
own \segment{}. This means that they never, ever, need to be copied! Instead,
we simply change their generation or \step{} number. We also need to chain the
object onto a list of large objects to be swept for pointers. This act also
serves to mark the object, so we don't chain it on twice, or increment its
\step{} number twice.
Stack objects probably count as large objects. This is one reason for not
wanting \block{}s to be too big.
\section{Mark sweep}
So far we have assumed copying collection. Actually, for
older generations we may want to use
mark/sweep/compact because it is a bit less greedy on address
space, and may help paging behaviour.
What I have in mind is a pointer-reversing mark phase, so that we don't have
to allocate space for a mark stack, although one could argue that a mark
stack will almost invariably be small, and if it gets big then you can always
malloc some more space. Mumble mumble.
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