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Concurrency is the simultaneous execution of program code instruction level – 2 or more machine instructions simultaneously statement level – 2 or more high-level statements simultaneously unit level – 2 or more subprograms simultaneously program level – 2 or more programs simultaneously

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Concurrency is the simultaneous execution of program code

instruction level – 2 or more machine instructions simultaneously

statement level – 2 or more high-level statements simultaneously

unit level – 2 or more subprograms simultaneously

program level – 2 or more programs simultaneously

instruction and program level concurrency involve no language issues so we won’t consider them and instead concentrate on the other two levels

instruction and program level concurrency typically require parallel processing while statement and unit level merely require multiprocessing

What languages support concurrency? And which type?

how does the language handle concurrency?

categories of concurrency
Physical concurrency: program code executed in parallel on multiple processors

Logical concurrency: program code executed in an interleaved fashion on a single processor with the OS or language responsible for the switching from one piece of code to another

to a programmer, physical and logical concurrency are the same, the language implementor must map logical concurrency onto the underlying hardware

thread of control is the path through the code taken, that is, the sequence of program points reached

Unit-level logical concurrency is implemented through the co-routine

a form of subroutine but with a different behavior from previous subroutines

one coroutine executes at a time, like normal subroutines, but in an interleaved fashion rather than a LIFO fashion

a coroutine can interrupt itself to start up another coroutine

for instance, a called function may stop to let the calling function execute, and then return to the same spot in the called function later

Categories of Concurrency
subprogram level concurrency
Subprogram-Level Concurrency
  • Task – a program unit that can execute concurrently with another program unit
    • tasks are unlike subroutines because
      • they may be implicitly started rather than explicitly as with subprograms
      • a unit that invokes a task does not have to wait for the task to complete but may continue executing
      • control may or may not return to the calling task
    • tasks may communicate through
      • shared memory (non-local variables), parameters, or through message passing
    • PL/I was the first language to offer subprogram-level concurrency via “call task” and “wait(event)” instructions
      • programmers can specify the priority of each task so that waiting routines are prioritized
      • wait is used to force a routine to wait the routine it is waiting on has finished
  • Disjoint tasks – tasks which do not affect each other or have any common memory
    • most tasks are not disjoint but instead share information
example card game
Example: Card Game
  • Four players, each using the same strategy
  • The card game is simulated as follows:
    • master unit creates 4 coroutines
    • master unit initializes each coroutine such that each starts with a different set of cards (perhaps an array randomly generated)
  • Master unit selects one of the 4 coroutines to start the game and resumes it
    • the coroutine runs its routine to decide what it will play and then resumes the next coroutine in order
    • after the 4th coroutine executes its “play”, it resumes the 1st one to start the next turn
      • notice that this is not like a normal function call where the caller is resumed once the function terminates!
    • this continues until one coroutine wins, at which point the coroutine returns control to the master unit
      • notice here that transfer of control is always progressing through each hand, this is only one form of concurrent control
more on tasks
A heavyweight task executes in its own address space with its own run-time stack

Lightweight tasks share the same address space and run-time stack with each other

the lightweight task is often called a thread

Non-disjoint tasks must communicate with each other

this requires synchronization:

cooperating synchronization (consumer-producer relationship)

competitive synchronization (access to a shared critical section)

synchronization methods:



message passing

More on Tasks

Without synchronization, shared

data can become corrupt – here,

TOTAL should be 8 (if A fetches

TOTAL before B) or7

liveness and deadlock
Liveness and Deadlock
  • These are the two states for any concurrent task (or multitasking)
  • A process which is not making progress toward completion may be in a state of:
    • deadlock – a process is holding resources other processes need while those processes are holding resources this process needs
    • starvation – a process continually is unable to access the resource because others get to it first
  • Liveness is when a task is in a state that will eventually allow it to complete execution and terminate
    • meaning that the task is not suffering from and will not suffer from either deadlock or starvation
    • without a fair selection mechanism for the next concurrent task, a process could easily wind up starving, and without adequate OS protection, a process could wind up in deadlock
      • these issues are studied in operating systems and so we won’t discuss them in much more detail in this chapter
  • Note that without concurrency or multitasking, deadlock cannot arise and starvation should not arise
    • unless resources are unavailable (off-line, not functioning)
design issues for concurrency
Unit-level concurrency is supported by synchronization

two forms: competitive and cooperative

How is synchronization implemented?



message passing


How and when do tasks begin and end execution?

How and when are tasks created (statically or dynamically)?

Synchronization guards over the execution of coroutines

coroutines have these features

multiple entry points

a means to maintain status information when inactive

invoked by a “resume” instruction (rather than a call)

may have “initialization code” which is only executed when the coroutine is created

typically, all coroutines are created by a non-coroutine program unit often called a master unit

if a coroutine reaches end of its code, control is transferred to master unit

otherwise, control is determined by a coroutine resuming another one

Design Issues for Concurrency
void wait(semaphore s)


if (s.value > 0)


else place the calling

process in a wait

queue, s.queue


void release(semaphore s)


if s.queue is not empty,

wake up first


else s.value++;


  • A data structure that provides synchronization through mutually exclusive access
    • a semaphore typically just stores an int value: 1 means that the shared resource is available, 0 means it is unavailable
    • the semaphore uses two processes: wait and release
      • when a process needs to access the shared resource, it executes wait
      • when the process is done with the shared resource, it executes resume
    • for the semaphore to work, wait and release cannot be interrupted (e.g., via multitasking)
      • so wait and release are often implemented in the machine’s instruction set as atomic instructions

A simpler form of the

semaphore uses a while loop

instead of a queue, that is,

the process stays in a while

loop while s.value <= 0

using the semaphore
Using the Semaphore

semaphore access, full, empty;

access.value = 1; full.value = 0;

empty.value = BUFFER_LENGTH;

while(1) {

// produce value







while(1) {






// consume value


semaphore full, empty;

full.value = 0;

empty.value = 0;

//producer code:



// produce value





//consumer code:






// consume value


Producer-consumer code

On the left, consumer

must wait until

producer produces

(cooperative synch)

On the right, as long as

a product is available,

any consumer can

consume it and any

producer can produce

if there is room in the

buffer (competitive synch)

NOTE: access ensures that

two producers or two

consumers are not accessing

the buffer at the same time

evaluation of semaphores
Evaluation of Semaphores
  • Binary semaphores were first implemented in PL/I which was the first language to offer concurrency
    • the binary semaphore version had no queue such that a waiting coroutine may not gain access in a timely fashion
      • in fact, there is no guarantee that a coroutine would not starve
      • so the semaphore’s use in PL/I was limited
    • ALGOL 68 offered compound-level concurrency and had a built-in data type called sema (semaphore)
  • Unfortunately, semaphore use can lead to disasterous results if not checked carefully
    • misuse can lead to deadlock or can permit non-mutual exclusive access (as shown in the previous slide’s notes page)
      • there is no way to, in general, check semaphore usage to ensure correctness, so, by offering built-in semaphores in a language, it does not necessarily help matters
    • instead, we will now turn to a better synchronization construct
      • the monitor

type monitor_name = monitor(params)

--- declaration of shared vars ---

--- definitions of local procedures ---

--- definitions of exported

procedures ---

--- initialization code ---


  • Introduced in Concurrent Pascal (1975) and later used in Modula and other languages
    • concurrent Pascal is Pascal + classes (Simula 67), tasks (for concurrency) and monitors
    • the general form of the Concurrent Pascal monitor is given to the right
      • the monitor is an encapsulated data type (ADT) but one that allows shared access to its data structure through synchronization
      • one can use the monitor to implement cooperative or competitive synchronization without semaphores

Exported procedures are those that can be referenced externally, e.g., the public portion of the monitor

Because the monitor is implemented in the language itself as a subprogram type, there is no way to misuse it

like you could semaphores

competitive and cooperative synchronization
Competitive and Cooperative Synchronization

Here, different tasks communicate through a shared buffer, inserting and removing data to the buffer

Through the use of continue(process), one process can alert another as to when the datum is ready

  • Access to the shared data of a monitor is automatically synchronized through the monitor
    • competitive synchronization needs no further mechanisms
    • cooperative synchronization requires further communication so that one task can alert another task to continue once it has performed its operation
message passing
Message Passing
  • While the monitor approach is safer than semaphores, it does not work if we are dealing with a concurrent system with distributed memory
    • message passing will solve this problem
      • message passing uses a transmission from one process to another called a rendezvous
    • we can use either synchronous message passing or asynchronous message passing
      • both approaches have been implemented in Ada
        • synchronous message passing in Ada 83
        • asynchronous message passing in Ada 95
    • both of these are rather complex, so we are going to skip it, the message passing model is one seen in OOP, so you should be familiar with the idea even though you might not understand the implementation
      • you can explore the details on pages 591-598 if you wish
The concurrent unit in Java and C# is the thread

lightweight tasks (as opposed to Ada’s heavyweight tasks)

a thread is code that shares address and stack space but each thread has its own private data space

In Java threads, threads have at least two methods

run: describes the actions of the thread

start: starts the thread as a concurrent unit but control also resumes to the caller which continues executing (sort of like a fork in Unix)

All Java classes are implemented as single threads

to define your own threaded class, you have to extend the Thread class

If the program has multiple threads, a scheduler must manage which thread should be run at any given time

different OSs schedule threads in different ways, so executing threads is somewhat unpredictable

Additional thread methods include:

yield (voluntarily stop itself)

sleep (block itself for a given number of milliseconds)

join (call another thread until it terminates)

stop, suspend and resume

synchronization with threads
Competitive synchronization is implemented by

specifying that one method’s code must run completely before a competitor’s runs

this can be done by using the synchronized modifier

see the code to the right where the two methods are synchronized for access to buf

Cooperative synchronization uses methods wait, notify and notifyAll of the Object class

notify will tell a given thread that an event has occurred, notifyAll notifies all threads in an object’s wait list

wait puts a thread to sleep until it is notified

Synchronization With Threads

class ManageBuffer {

private int[100] buf;

public synchronized void

deposit(int item) {…}

public synchronized int fetch( ) {…}


partial example
Partial Example

class Queue {

private int[ ] queue;

private int nextIn, nextOut, filled, size;

// constructor omitted

public synchronized void deposit(int item) {

try {

while(filled = = size) wait( );

queue[nextIn] = item;

nextIn = (nextIn % size) + 1;


notifyAll( );


catch(InterruptedExecution e) {}


public synchronized int fetch( ) {

int item = 0;

try {

while(filled = = 0) wait( );

item = queue[nextOut];

nextOut = (nextOut % size) + 1;

filled --;

notifyAll( );


catch(InterruptedExecution e) {}

return item;


} // end class

We would create Producer and Consumer classes that extend Thread and contain the Queue as a shared data structure (create a single Queue object and

use it when initializing both the Producer object and the Consumer object)

See pages 603-606 for the full example

c threads
C# Threads
  • A modest improvement over Java threads
    • any method can run in its own thread by creating a Thread object
    • Thread objects are instantiated with a previously defined ThreadStart class which is passed the method that implements the action of the new Thread object
      • C#, like Java, has methods for start, join, sleep, and includes an abort method that makes termination of threads superior than in Java
  • In C#, threads can be synchronized by
    • being placed inside a Monitor class (for creating an ADT with a critical section as per Pascal)
    • being placed inside an Interlock class (this is used only when synchronizing access to a datum that is to be incr/decr)
    • using the lock statement (to mark access to a critical section inside a thread)
  • C# threads are not as flexible as Ada threads, but are simpler to use/implement
statement level concurrency
From a language designer’s viewpoint, it is important to have constructs that allow a programmer to identify to a compiler how a program can be mapped onto a multiprocessor

there are many forms ways to parallelize code, the book only refers to methods for a SIMD architecture

High-Performance FORTRAN is an extension to FORTRAN 90 that allows programmers to specify statement-level concurrency

PROCESSORS is a specification that describes the number of processors available for the program. This is used with other specifications to tell the compiler how data is to be distributed

DISTRIBUTE statement specifies what data is to be distributed (e.g. an array)

ALIGN statement relates the distribution of arrays with each other

FORALL statement lists those statements that can be executed concurrently

details can be found on pages 609-610

Other languages are available to implement statement-level concurrency such as Cn (a variation of C), Parallaxis-III (a variation of Modula-2) and Vector Pascal

Statement-Level Concurrency