Feature #13512


System Threads

Added by magaudet (Matthew Gaudet) over 5 years ago. Updated about 5 years ago.

Target version:


In this feature I propose creating a VM implementation feature called (for lack of a better name) System Threads.


I am working on adding asynchronous compilation to Ruby+OMR allow compilation of methods to occur off the application thread, to avoid latency jumps when a method is selected for compilation. In the process of compiling Ruby, I really need to be able to call into the interpreter, to query for information about methods, and eventually I may even want to run small pieces of Ruby code (to fold constantes for example). I cannot call into the interpeter in any way without using a ruby level thread (required to acquire the GVL), and so, today, my implementation uses the existing Ruby thread API (rb_thread_create, rb_thread_call_without_gvl2, rb_thread_call_with_gvl). This approach largely works, and I am able to boot Discourse with the JIT + Async compilation enabled, thanks to ko1.

Unfortunately, I'm unable to pass make test, a curious situation.

The issue is that because the compilation is a persistent Thread, there is some functionality that stops working (though, not enough to cause Discourse to fail). For example, the deadlock detection code tested by the following case no longer fires, and so a hang occurs:

assert_equal 'ok', %q{
  begin { Thread.stop }
  rescue Exception

This seems undesirable: The deadlock detection API is very useful, and I really don't want to neuter it by introducing a compilation thread. Hence the proposal for a System Thread.

System Threads

I am proposing resolving the problem above by adding a new thread API: VALUE rb_system_thread_create(VALUE (*)(ANYARGS), void*);. Later extensions could provide a subclass of Thread called SystemThread however for now I consider that mildly out of scope.

Here are the distinguishing features as I see them:

  • A Thread created through the System Thread API would not show up in Thread::list (though, if SystemThread is created, would show up in its list).
  • For the purposes of error reporting, System Threads would be resumed not to be partaking in user code. ie:
    • System threads aren't eligible to wake condition variables
    • System threads aren't enough to have the system able to make forward progresss.

Potential Users:

In addition to JIT compilation threads, I see potential for other future consumers:

  • Concurrent garbage collection would likely need to take place on a System Thread to allow finalizers to run.
  • (Potential for misuse) one could imagine some libraries would want system threads.

Other notes:

I took a little bit of time to try to implement System Threads, enough to realize that this wouldn't be a trivial implementation. There are a couple of different approaches I think that could be successful, but I didn't get deep enough into the thread code to have a strong intuition, and so I wanted to get feedback before going too far down this road.

As a side note, I also attempted an alternative to System Threads for the purposes of the compilation thread: I used a native thread, then intended to spawn a Ruby thread only at the point where the JIT had a query:

# This was implemented using the C-API. 
def call_into_vm(query, arg) { query(arg) }.value

This was unsuccessful because creating a thread requires holding the GVL, but a native thread cannot acquire the GVL as near as I can tell.


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