Thread Libraries

Thread Libraries

A thread library provides the programmer an API for creating and managing threads. There are two primary ways of implementing a thread library. The first approach is to provide a library entirely in user space with no kernel support. All code and data structures for the library exist in user space. This means that invoking a function in the library results in a local function call in user space and not a system call.

The second approach is to implement a kernel-level library supported directly by the operating system. In this case, code and data structures for the library exist in kernel space. Invoking a function in the API for the library typically results in a system call to the kernel.

Three main thread libraries are in use today:

  1. POSIX Pthreads,
  2. Win32, and
  3. Java. Pthreads,

the threads extension of the POSIX standard, may be provided as either a user- or kernel-level library. The Win32 thread library is a kernel-level library available on Windows systems. The Java thread API allows thread creation and management directly in Java programs. However, because in most instances the JVM is running on top of a host operating system, the Java thread API is typically implemented using a thread library available on the host system. This means that on Windows systems, Java threads are typically implemented using the Win32 API; UNIX and Linux systems often use Pthreads.

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Thread Libraries

In the remainder of this section, we describe basic thread creation using these three thread libraries. As an illustrative example, we design a multithreaded program that performs the summation of a non-negative integer in a separate thread using the well-known summation function. For example, if N were 5, this function would represent the summation from 0 to 5, which is 15. Each of the three programs will be run with the upper bounds of the summation entered on the command line; thus, if the user enters 8, the summation of the integer values from 0 to 8 will be output.


Pthreads refers to the POSIX standard (IEEE 1003.1c) defining an API for thread creation and synchronization. This is a specification for thread behavior, not an implementation. Operating system designers may implement the specification in any way they wish. Numerous systems implement the Pthreads specification, including Solaris, Linux, Mac OS X, and Tru64 UNIX. Shareware implementations are available in the public domain for the various Windows operating systems as well. In a Pthreads program, separate threads begin execution in a specified function,  this is the runner () function. When this program begins, a single thread of control begins in main().


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 After some initialization, main() creates a second thread that begins control in the runner () function. Both threads share the global data sum. Let's look more closely at this program. All Pthreads programs must include the pthread.h header file. The statement pthreadjt tid declares the identifier for the thread we will create. Each thread has a set of attributes, including stack size and scheduling information. The pthread_attr_t attr declaration represents the attributes for the thread. We set the attributes in the function call pthread_attr_init C&attr). Because we did not explicitly set any attributes, we use the default attributes provided. A separate thread is created with the pthread_create () function call. In addition to passing the thread identifier and the attributes for the thread, we also pass the name of the function where the new thread will begin execution-—in this case, the runner () function. Last, we pass the integer parameter that was provided on the command line, argv [1]. At this point, the program has two threads: the initial (or parent) thread in main() and the summation (or child) thread performing the summation operation in the runner () function. After creating the summation thread, the parent thread will wait for it to complete by calling the pthread_join() function. The summation thread will complete when it calls the function pthread.exit() . Once the summation thread has returned, the parent thread will output the value of the shared data sum.

Win32 Threads

The technique for creating threads using the Win32 thread library is similar to the Pthreads technique in several ways. we must include the windows.h header file when using the Win32 API. Just as in the Pthreads, data shared by the separate threads—in this case, Sum—are declared globally (the DWORD data type is an unsigned 32-bit integer. We also define the SummationO function that is to be performed in a separate thread. This function is passed a pointer to a void, which Win32 defines as LPVOID. The thread performing this function sets the global data Sum to the value of the summation from 0 to the parameter passed to SummationO.

Threads are created in the Win32 API using the CreateThreadO function and—just as in Pthreads—a set of attributes for the thread is passed to this function. These attributes include security information, the size of the stack, and a flag that can be set to indicate if the thread is to start in a suspended state. In this program, we use the default values for these attributes (which do not initially set the thread to a suspended state and instead make it eligible to be run by the CPU scheduler). Once the summation thread is created, the parent must wait for it to complete before outputting the value of Sum, as the value is set by the summation thread. Recall that the Pthread program had the parent thread wait for the summation thread using the pthread join() statement. We perform the equivalent of this in the Win32 API using the WaitForSingleObject () function, which causes the creating thread to block until the summation thread has exited.

Java Threads

Threads are the fundamental model of program execution in a Java program, and the Java language and its API provide a rich set of features for the creation and management of threads. All Java programs comprise at least a single thread, even a simple Java program consisting of only a main() method runs as a single thread in the JVM. There are two techniques for creating threads in a Java program. One approach is to create a new class that is derived from the Thread class and to override its run() method. An alternative—and more commonly used— technique is to define a class that implements the Runnable interface.

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The JVM and Host Operating System

The JVM is typically implemented on top of a host operating system (see Pigure 2.17). This setup allows the JVM to bide the implementation details of the underlying operating system and to provide a consistent, abstract environment that allows Java programs to operate on any platform that supports- a JVM. The specification for the JVM does not indicate how Java 'threads are to be mapped to the underlying operating system, instead leaving that decision to the particular implementation.of the JVM. For example, the Windows XP operating system uses the one-to-one model; therefore, each Java thread for a ' JVVI running on such a system maps to a kernel thread. On operating systems that use the m.any-to-many model.(such as Tru64 UNIX), a Java thread is mapped according to the many-to-many model. Solaris ini tially implemented the JVM using the many-to-one model (the green thre'adslibrary,' mentioned-earlier). Later releases of the JVM were implemented using the many-to-many model.

Beginning with Solaris 9, Java threads were mapped using the one-to-one model. In addition, there may be a relationship between the Java thread library and-the-thread library on the host operating system. For example, implementations of a. JVM for the Windows family of operating systems might use the Win32 API when creating Java threads; Linux and Solaris systems might use the Pthreads -APL

The Runnable interface is defined as follows: public interface Runnable { public abstract void run(); When a class implements Runnable, it must define a run() method. The code implementing the run() method is what runs as a separate thread. Java version of a multithreaded program that determines the summation of a non-negative integer. The Summation class implements the Runnable interface. Thread creation is performed by creating an object instance of the Thread class and passing the constructor a Runnable object. Creating a Thread object does not specifically create the new thread; rather, it is the start () method that actually creates the new thread. Calling the start () method for the new object does two things:

1. It allocates memory and initializes a new thread in the JVM.

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2. It calls the run () method, making the thread eligible to be run by the JVM. (Note that we never call the run() method directly. Rather, we call the start () method, and it calls the run() method on our behalf.)

When the summation program runs, two threads are created by the JVM. The first is the parent thread, which starts execution in the main() method. The second thread is created when the start () method on the Thread object is invoked. This child thread begins execution in the run () method of the Summation class. After outputting the value of the summation, this thread terminates when it exits from its run () method. Sharing of data between threads occurs easily in Win32 and Pthreads, as shared data are simply declared globally.

As a pure object-oriented language, Java has no such notion of global data; if two or more threads are to share data in a Java program, the sharing occurs by passing reference to the shared object to the appropriate threads. In the Java program shown in Figure 4.8, the main thread and the summation thread share the the object instance of the Sum class. This shared object is referenced through the appropriate getSum() and setSum() methods. (You might wonder why we don't use an Integer object rather than designing a new sum class.

The reason is that the Integer class is immutable—that is, once its value is set, it cannot change.) Recall that the parent threads in the Pthreads and Win32 libraries use pthreacLjoin() and WaitForSingleObject() (respectively) to wait for the summation threads to finish before proceeding. The join() method in Java provides similar functionality. (Notice that join() can throw an InterruptedException, which we choose to ignore.)

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Frequently Asked Questions

Ans: Thread Scheduling we introduced threads to the process model, distinguishing between user-level and kernel-level threads. On operating systems that support them, it is kernel-level threads—not processes—that are being scheduled by the operating system. User-level threads are managed by a thread library, and the kernel is unaware of them. To run on a CPU, user-level threads must ultimately be mapped to an associated kernel-level thread, although this mapping may be indirect and may use a lightweight process (LWP). In this section, we explore scheduling issues involving user-level and kernel-level threads and offer specific examples of scheduling for Pthreads. view more..
Ans: Scheduling Criteria Different CPU scheduling algorithms have different properties, and the choice of a particular algorithm may favor one class of processes over another. In choosing which algorithm to use in a particular situation, we must consider the properties of the various algorithms. Many criteria have been suggested for comparing CPU scheduling algorithms. Which characteristics are used for comparison can make a substantial difference in which algorithm is judged to be best. The criteria include the following: • CPU utilization. We want to keep the CPU as busy as possible. Conceptually, CPU utilization can range from 0 to 100 percent. In a real system, it should range from 40 percent (for a lightly loaded system) to 90 percent (for a heavily used system). view more..
Ans: Computing Environments : Traditional Computing, Client-Server Computing, Peer-to-Peer Computing, Web-Based Computing view more..
Ans: Thread Libraries A thread library provides the programmer an API for creating and managing threads. There are two primary ways of implementing a thread library. The first approach is to provide a library entirely in user space with no kernel support. All code and data structures for the library exist in user space. This means that invoking a function in the library results in a local function call in user space and not a system call. view more..
Ans: we illustrate a classic software-based solution to the critical-section problem known as Peterson's solution. Because of the way modern computer architectures perform basic machine-language instructions, such as load and store, there are no guarantees that Peterson's solution will work correctly on such architectures. However, we present the solution because it provides a good algorithmic description of solving the critical-section problem and illustrates some of the complexities involved in designing software that addresses the requirements of mutual exclusion, progress, and bounded waiting requirements. Peterson's solution is restricted to two processes that alternate execution between their critical sections and remainder sections. The processes are numbered Po and Pi. view more..
Ans: Synchronization Hardware We have just described one software-based solution to the critical-section problem. In general, we can state that any solution to the critical-section problem requires a simple tool—a lock. Race conditions are prevented by requiring that critical regions be protected by locks. That is, a process must acquire a lock before entering a critical section; it releases the lock when it exits the critical section. view more..
Ans: System Model A system consists of a finite number of resources to be distributed among a number of competing processes. The resources are partitioned into several types, each consisting of some number of identical instances. Memory space, CPU cycles, files, and I/O devices (such as printers and DVD drives) are examples of resource types. If a system has two CPUs, then the resource type CPU has two instances. Similarly, the resource type printer may have five instances. If a process requests an instance of a resource type, the allocation of any instance of the type will satisfy the request. If it will not, then the instances are not identical, and the resource type classes have not been defined properly. view more..
Ans: Deadlock Characterization In a deadlock, processes never finish executing, and system resources are tied up, preventing other jobs from starting. Before we discuss the various methods for dealing with the deadlock problem, we look more closely at features that characterize deadlocks. view more..
Ans: Atomicity We introduced the concept of an atomic transaction, which is a program unit that must be executed atomically. That is, either all the operations associated with it are executed to completion, or none are performed. When we are dealing with a distributed system, ensuring the atomicity of a transaction becomes much more complicated than in a centralized system. This difficulty occurs because several sites may be participating in the execution of a single transaction. The failure of one of these sites, or the failure of a communication link connecting the sites, may result in erroneous computations. Ensuring that the execution of transactions in the distributed system preserves atomicity is the function of the transaction coordinator. Each site has its own local transaction coordinator, which is responsible for coordinating the execution of all the transactions initiated at that site. view more..
Ans: Kernel Modules The Linux kernel has the ability to load and unload arbitrary sections of kernel code on demand. These loadable kernel modules run in privileged kernel mode and as a consequence have full access to all the hardware capabilities of the machine on which they run. In theory, there is no restriction on what a kernel module is allowed to do; typically, a module might implement a device driver, a file system, or a networking protocol. Kernel modules are convenient for several reasons. Linux's source code is free, so anybody wanting to write kernel code is able to compile a modified kernel and to reboot to load that new functionality; however, recompiling, relinking, and reloading the entire kernel is a cumbersome cycle to undertake when you are developing a new driver. If you use kernel modules, you do not have to make a new kernel to test a new driver—the driver can be compiled on its own and loaded into the already-running kernel. view more..
Ans: Disk Attachment Computers access disk storage in two ways. One way is via I/O ports (or host-attached storage); this is common on small systems. The other way is via a remote host in a distributed file system; this is referred to as network-attached storage. view more..
Ans: Memory-Mapped Files Consider a sequential read of a file on disk using the standard system calls openQ, readO, and writeQ. Each file access requires a system call and disk access. Alternatively, we can use the virtual memory techniques discussed so far to treat file I/O as routine memory accesses. This approach, known as memory mapping a file, allows a part of the virtual address space to be logically associated with the file. view more..
Ans: Efficiency and Performance Now that we have discussed various block-allocation and directorymanagement options, we can further consider their effect on performance and efficient disk use. Disks tend to represent a major bottleneck in system performance, since they are the slowest main computer component. In this section, we discuss a variety of techniques used to improve the efficiency and performance of secondary storage. view more..
Ans: Recovery Files and directories are kept both in main memory and on disk, and care must taken to ensure that system failure does not result in loss of data or in data inconsistency. view more..
Ans: Log-Structured File Systems Computer scientists often find that algorithms and technologies originally used in one area are equally useful in other areas. Such is the case with the database log-based recovery algorithms described in Section 6.9.2. These logging algorithms have been applied successfully to the problem of consistency checking. The resulting implementations are known as log-based transaction-oriented (or journaling) file systems. view more..
Ans: Example: The WAFL File System Disk I/O has a huge impact on system performance. As a result, file-system design and implementation command quite a lot of attention from system designers. Some file systems are general purpose, in that they can provide reasonable performance and functionality for a wide variety of file sizes, file types, and I/O loads. Others are optimized for specific tasks in an attempt to provide better performance in those areas than general-purpose file systems. view more..
Ans: Network Structure There are basically two types of networks: local-area networks (LAN) and wide-area networks (WAN). The main difference between the two is the way in which they are geographically distributed. Local-area networks are composed of processors distributed over small areas (such as a single building? or a number of adjacent buildings), whereas wide-area networks are composed of a number of autonomous processors distributed over a large area (such as the United States). These differences imply major variations in the speed and reliability of the communications network, and they are reflected in the distributed operating-system design. view more..
Ans: Network Topology The sites in a distributed system can be connected physically in a variety of ways. Each configuration has advantages and disadvantages. We can compare the configurations by using the following criteria: • Installation cost. The cost of physically linking the sites in the system • Communication cost. The cost in time and money to send a message from site A to site B 16.4 Network Topology 621 • Availability. The extent to which data can be accessed despite the failure of some links or sites view more..

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