Effective Concurrency: Use Thread Pools Correctly – Keep Tasks Short and Nonblocking

This month’s Effective Concurrency column, “Use Thread Pools Correctly: Keep Tasks Short and Nonblocking”, is now live on DDJ’s website.

From the article:

… But the thread pool is a leaky abstraction. That is, the pool hides a lot of details from us, but to use it effectively we do need to be aware of some things a pool does under the covers so that we can avoid inadvertently hitting performance and correctness pitfalls. Here’s the summary up front:

1. Tasks should be small, but not too small, otherwise performance overheads will dominate.

2. Tasks should avoid blocking (waiting idly for other events, including inbound messages or contested locks), otherwise the pool won’t consistently utilize the hardware well — and, in the extreme worst case, the pool could even deadlock.

Let’s see why. …

I hope you enjoy it. Finally, here are links to previous Effective Concurrency columns:

The Pillars of Concurrency (Aug 2007)

How Much Scalability Do You Have or Need? (Sep 2007)

Use Critical Sections (Preferably Locks) to Eliminate Races (Oct 2007)

Apply Critical Sections Consistently (Nov 2007)

Avoid Calling Unknown Code While Inside a Critical Section (Dec 2007)

Use Lock Hierarchies to Avoid Deadlock (Jan 2008)

Break Amdahl’s Law! (Feb 2008)

Going Superlinear (Mar 2008)

Super Linearity and the Bigger Machine (Apr 2008)

Interrupt Politely (May 2008)

Maximize Locality, Minimize Contention (Jun 2008)

Choose Concurrency-Friendly Data Structures (Jul 2008)

The Many Faces of Deadlock (Aug 2008)

Lock-Free Code: A False Sense of Security (Sep 2008)

Writing Lock-Free Code: A Corrected Queue (Oct 2008)

Writing a Generalized Concurrent Queue (Nov 2008)

Understanding Parallel Performance (Dec 2008)

Measuring Parallel Performance: Optimizing a Concurrent Queue (Jan 2009)

volatile vs. volatile (Feb 2009)

Sharing Is the Root of All Contention (Mar 2009)

Use Threads Correctly = Isolation + Asynchronous Messages (Apr 2009)

“Use Thread Pools Correctly: Keep Tasks Short and Nonblocking” (Apr 2009)

A Wryly Repurposed Quotation

In my travels, I recently came across this empty store with an almost-empty box beside the front door. As seen in Monterey, CA:


Evidently some character had also noticed the empty store with its empty box, and decided to do a little walk-by wry economic commentary via repurposed quotation. Zooming on the once-empty box:

IMG_0223 IMG_0224