Synchronization Views for Event-loop Actors

With Joeri we have been working already for a while on a paper to extend the standard actor model with more parallelism. This work is not completed yet, and there are still some theoretical issues with the approach he designed. But we are working on it!

For the moment, you can have a sneak-peak at the poster abstract for PPoPP’12.

Abstract

The actor model has already proven itself as an interesting concurrency model that avoids issues such as deadlocks and race conditions by construction, and thus facilitates concurrent programming. The tradeoff is that it sacrifices expressiveness and efficiency especially with respect to data parallelism. However, many standard solutions to computationally expensive problems employ data parallel algorithms for better performance on parallel systems.

We identified three problems that inhibit the use of data-parallel algorithms within the actor model. Firstly, one of the main properties of the actor model, the fact that no data is shared, is one of the most severe performance bottlenecks. Especially the fact that shared state can not be read truly in parallel. Secondly, the actor model on its own does not provide a mechanism to specify extra synchronization conditions on batches of messages which leads to event-level data-races. And lastly, programmers are forced to write code in a continuation-passing style (CPS) to handle typical request-response situations. However, CPS breaks the sequential flow of the code and is often hard to understand, which increases complexity and lowers maintainability.

We proposes synchronization views to solve these three issues without compromising the semantic properties of the actor model. Thus, the resulting concurrency model maintains deadlock-freedom, avoids low-level race conditions, and keeps the semantics of macro-step execution.

  • Synchronization Views for Event-loop Actors, Joeri De Koster, Stefan Marr, Theo D’Hondt, Proceedings of PPoPP’12, USA, to appear (2012).
  • Paper: PDF
    ©ACM, 2012. This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. To appear.
  • BibTex: BibSonomy

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