path: root/Documentation/RCU/rcu.txt
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authorLinus Torvalds <>2005-04-16 15:20:36 -0700
committerLinus Torvalds <>2005-04-16 15:20:36 -0700
commit1da177e4c3f41524e886b7f1b8a0c1fc7321cac2 (patch)
tree0bba044c4ce775e45a88a51686b5d9f90697ea9d /Documentation/RCU/rcu.txt
Initial git repository build. I'm not bothering with the full history, even though we have it. We can create a separate "historical" git archive of that later if we want to, and in the meantime it's about 3.2GB when imported into git - space that would just make the early git days unnecessarily complicated, when we don't have a lot of good infrastructure for it. Let it rip!
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+RCU Concepts
+The basic idea behind RCU (read-copy update) is to split destructive
+operations into two parts, one that prevents anyone from seeing the data
+item being destroyed, and one that actually carries out the destruction.
+A "grace period" must elapse between the two parts, and this grace period
+must be long enough that any readers accessing the item being deleted have
+since dropped their references. For example, an RCU-protected deletion
+from a linked list would first remove the item from the list, wait for
+a grace period to elapse, then free the element. See the listRCU.txt
+file for more information on using RCU with linked lists.
+Frequently Asked Questions
+o Why would anyone want to use RCU?
+ The advantage of RCU's two-part approach is that RCU readers need
+ not acquire any locks, perform any atomic instructions, write to
+ shared memory, or (on CPUs other than Alpha) execute any memory
+ barriers. The fact that these operations are quite expensive
+ on modern CPUs is what gives RCU its performance advantages
+ in read-mostly situations. The fact that RCU readers need not
+ acquire locks can also greatly simplify deadlock-avoidance code.
+o How can the updater tell when a grace period has completed
+ if the RCU readers give no indication when they are done?
+ Just as with spinlocks, RCU readers are not permitted to
+ block, switch to user-mode execution, or enter the idle loop.
+ Therefore, as soon as a CPU is seen passing through any of these
+ three states, we know that that CPU has exited any previous RCU
+ read-side critical sections. So, if we remove an item from a
+ linked list, and then wait until all CPUs have switched context,
+ executed in user mode, or executed in the idle loop, we can
+ safely free up that item.
+o If I am running on a uniprocessor kernel, which can only do one
+ thing at a time, why should I wait for a grace period?
+ See the UP.txt file in this directory.
+o How can I see where RCU is currently used in the Linux kernel?
+ Search for "rcu_read_lock", "call_rcu", and "synchronize_kernel".
+o What guidelines should I follow when writing code that uses RCU?
+ See the checklist.txt file in this directory.
+o Why the name "RCU"?
+ "RCU" stands for "read-copy update". The file listRCU.txt has
+ more information on where this name came from, search for
+ "read-copy update" to find it.
+o I hear that RCU is patented? What is with that?
+ Yes, it is. There are several known patents related to RCU,
+ search for the string "Patent" in RTFP.txt to find them.
+ Of these, one was allowed to lapse by the assignee, and the
+ others have been contributed to the Linux kernel under GPL.
+o Where can I find more information on RCU?
+ See the RTFP.txt file in this directory.