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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Livelock

Livelock: 
Livelock is when multiple threads continue to run (ie. do not block indefinitely like in deadlock), but the system as a whole does not make progress due to repeating patterns of non-productive resource contention.
Livelock may arise from attempts to avoid threads blocking (which can hurt performance) via a try-lock. A try-lock attempts to lock a mutex but does not block if the mutex is already locked. The following example should make usage of the Boost try-lock clear.
Listing 1. Contrived livelock
boost::try_mutex resourceX;
boost::try_mutex resourceY;

void threadAFunc()
{
    uint counter = 0;
    while(true)
    {
        boost::try_mutex::scoped_lock lockX(resourceX);
        boost::thread::yield(); // encourage the livelock

        boost::try_mutex::scoped_try_lock lockY(resourceY);
        if(lockY.locked() == false) continue;

        std::cout << "threadA working: " << ++counter << "\n";
    }
}

void threadBFunc()
{
    uint counter = 0;
    while(true)
    {
        boost::try_mutex::scoped_lock lockY(resourceY);
        boost::thread::yield(); // encourage the livelock

        boost::try_mutex::scoped_try_lock lockX(resourceX);
        if(lockX.locked() == false) continue;

        std::cout << "threadB working: " << ++counter << "\n";
    }
}
This code exhibits an almost full livelock, though for each yield statement removed the lock gets a little less severe. When I run this example, at best threads do a few pieces of work per second. How does the livelock occur? The probable sequence is illustrated below:



Another use of the term livelock involves starvation, where one part of a system monopolises system resources and starves another part of the system. For example, a system composed of request-queueing and request-servicing components might exhibit starvation if an overwhelming number of requests cause the request-queueing component to use all system resources.

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