[GSoC][RFC] Proposal: Make pack access code thread-safe
- Date: Sun, 7 Apr 2019 17:48:30 -0300
- From: Matheus Tavares Bernardino <matheus.bernardino@xxxxxx>
- Subject: [GSoC][RFC] Proposal: Make pack access code thread-safe
This is my proposal for GSoC with the subject "Make pack access code
thread-safe". I'm late in schedule but I would like to ask for your
comments on it. Any feedback will be highly appreciated.
The "rendered" version can be seen here:
I kindly ask you to read the text at the google docs link, because in
the conversion to plain text I noticed it discards some information :(
But for those who prefer to comment by email, here it is:
Making pack access code thread-safe
Name Matheus Tavares Bernardino
IRC Nick matheustavares on #git-devel
Postal address [...]
# About me
I’m a senior student at the University of São Paulo (USP), attending the
Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science course. Currently, I’m at the end
of a one year undergraduate research in High-Performance Computing. The
goal of this project was to accelerate astrophysical software for black
hole studies using GPUs. Also, I’m working as a teaching assistant on
IME-USP’s Concurrent and Parallel Programming course, giving lectures
and developing/grading programming assignments. Besides parallel and
high-performance computing I’m very passionate about software
development in general, but especially low-level coding, and FLOSS.
# About me and FLOSS
## Linux Kernel
Last year, I started contributing to the Linux Kernel in the IIO
subsystem, together with a group of colleagues. I worked with another
student, to move the ad2s90 module out of staging area to Kernel’s
mainline, which we accomplished by the end of the year. In total, I
authored 11 patches and co-authored 3 (all of which are already at
Torvald’s repo). If you want to know more about my contributions to
Linux Kernel, take a look at the Appendix section.
## FLUSP: FLOSS at USP
After the amazing experience contributing to the Linux Kernel, we
decided to found FLUSP: FLOSS at USP, a group opened to undergraduate
and graduate students that aims to contribute to FLOSS software. Since
then, the group has grown and evolved a lot: Currently, we have members
contributing to the Kernel, GCC, IGT GPU Tools, Git and some projects of
our own such as KernelWorkflow. And as a recognition of our endeavor
with free software, we received some donations from AnalogDevices and
Besides administrative questions and contributions to FLOSS projects, at
FLUSP, I’ve been mentoring people who want to start contributing to the
Linux Kernel and now, to Git, as well.
# About me and Git
I joined Git community in February and, so far, I have sent the
clone: test for our behavior on odd objects/* content
clone: better handle symlinked files at .git/objects/
dir-iterator: add flags parameter to dir_iterator_begin
clone: copy hidden paths at local clone
clone: extract function from copy_or_link_directory
clone: use dir-iterator to avoid explicit dir traversal
clone: Replace strcmp by fspathcmp
And three more patches for git.github.io:
rn-50: Add git-send-email links to light readings
SoC-2019-Microprojects: Remove git-credential-cache
SoC-2019-Microprojects: Remove all trailing spaces
Participating at FLUSP, I’ve also been part of some Git related activities:
* I actively helped to organize a Git workshop for newcomer students.
* I’ve written an article at our website to help people configure and
use git-send-email to send patches.
* I’ve been writing a ‘First steps at Git’ article (not finished yet),
in which I’m registering what I’ve learned in the Git community so far,
since downloading the source, subscribing to the mailings list and
joining the channel at IRC until how to use travis-ci and begin sending
# The Project
As direct as possible, the goal with this project is to make more of
Git’s codebase thread-safe, so that we can improve parallelism in
various commands. The motivation behind this are the complaints from
developers experiencing slow Git commands when working with large
repositories, such as chromium and Android. And since nowadays, most
personal computers have multi-core CPUs, it is a natural step trying to
improve parallel support so that we can better use the available resources.
With this in mind, pack access code is a good target for improvement,
since it’s used by many Git commands (e.g., checkout, grep, blame, diff,
log, etc.). This section of the codebase is still sequential and has
many global states, which should be protected before we can work to
## The Pack Access Code
To better describe what the pack access code is, we must talk about
Git’s object storing (in a simplified way): Besides what are called
loose objects, Git has a very optimized mechanism to compactly store
objects (blobs, trees, commits, etc.) in packfiles. These files are
1. listing objects;
2. sorting the list with some good heuristics;
3. traversing the list with a sliding window to find similar objects in
the window, in order to do delta decomposing;
4. compress the objects with zlib and write them to the packfile.
What we are calling pack access code in this document, is the set of
functions responsible for retrieving the objects stored at the
packfiles. This process consists, roughly speaking, in three parts:
1. Locate and read the blob from packfile, using the index file;
2. If the blob is a delta, locate and read the base object to apply the
delta on top of it;
3. Once the full content is read, decompress it (using zlib inflate).
Note: There is a delta cache for the second step so that if another
delta depends on the same base object, it is already in memory. This
cache is global; also, the sliding windows, are global per packfile.
If these steps were thread-safe, the ability to perform the delta
reconstruction (together with the delta cache lookup) and zlib inflation
in parallel could bring a good speedup. At git-blame, for example,
24% of the time is spent in the call stack originated at
read_object_file_extended. Not only this but once we have this big
section of the codebase thread-safe, we can work to parallelize even
more work at higher levels of the call stack. Therefore, with this
project, we aim to make room for many future optimizations in many Git
I will probably be working mainly with packfile.c, sha1-file.c,
object-store.h, object.c and pack.h, however, I may also need to tackle
other files. I will be focusing on the following three pack access call
chains, found in git-grep and/or git-blame:
read_object_file → repo_read_object_file → read_object_file_extended →
read_object → oid_object_info_extended → find_pack_entry →
fill_pack_entry → find_pack_entry_one → bsearch_pack and
oid_object_info → oid_object_info_extended → <same as previous>
read_object_with_reference → read_object_file → <same as previous>
Ideally, at the end of the project, it will be possible to call
read_object_file, oid_object_info and read_object_with_reference with
thread-safety, so that these operations can be, latter, performed in
Here are some threads on Git’s mailing list where I started discussing
And also, a previous attempt to make part of the pack access code
thread-safe which I may use as a base:
# Points to work on
* Investigate pack access call chains and look for non-thread-safe
operations on then.
* Protect packfile.c read-and-write global variables, such as
pack_open_windows, pack_open_fds and etc., using mutexes.
* Just like the previous item, protect sha1-file.c global states such as
the object cache used by read_object_file(). (The object cache may be
thread-local thought. This should still be studied.)
* Investigate the delta cache, sliding pack window, and maybe other
states that should be protected as well.
* Use GDB or GPROF to follow call chains inside pack access looking for
functions with static variables in their scopes. These variables are
thread-shared and should be protected or the functions to which they
belong be refactored.
* Make sure tests cover functions I’ll be working on and refactor/add
tests as needed
* [Bonus] Once pack access is thread-safe, refactor the critical
sections at git-grep to use more fine-grained mutexes. This will
hopefully increase git-grep performance, especially in large repositories.
* [Bonus] Check other mutex protected functions git-grep uses, not
related with pack access, to see if we can implement a more
fined-grained parallelism there. This functions are: fill_textconv,
is_submodule_active, repo_submodule_init, repo_read_gitmodules and
* [Bonus] Once pack access is thread-safe, ensure xdiff code used by
git-blame has thread-safety. I expect this to be easier.
* [Bonus] If the previous bonus get completed, start discussing a
possible parallel git-blame implementation with the community. We could
work a producer-consumer mechanism at blame.c’s assign_blame() function,
for a very good work sharing assignment (90% of git-blame’s time is
spent here). Or try threading at lower functions on the call stack
that still uses a lot of execution time such as the libxdiff ones.
This is the planned schedule in which I should be working on. But I
would like to highlight that since there’s still a significant
investigation period from now until early May, this can have some
changes or additions during the process.
Investigation Time (Now - May, 5)
* Gather information of global states.
* Trace pack access call chain used by git commands like blame and
* Try to classify which global variables are updated during pack
access call stack and, therefore, should be protected.
* Adjust the schedule as needed.
Community Bounding and work on sha1-file.c global states (May, 6 - 26)
* Talk with the community about my then refined plan and ask for
* Protect object cache at sha1-file.c (or make it thread-local).
* Work on other sha1-file.c global states and non-thread-safe
Work on packfile.c global states (not including delta cache) (May, 27 -
* Conclude any unfinished work on sha1-file.c from the previous period.
* Protect packfile.c variables (pack_open_windows, pack_open_fds
and etc.) and work on its non-protected functions.
Work on delta cache and other global states (June, 24 - July, 21)
* Protect delta base cache operations (here we should study whether
to add mutexes to the cache itself or to the underlying hashmap).
* Protect oid_* functions.
* Work on sliding window (this is the section I have less knowledge
yet, so should be studied)
Work on bonus and leftovers (July, 22 - August 19)
* This time will be reserved to finish any leftovers from the other
periods and, if we still have some spare time, work on the bonus items.
* Note: I also plan to attend DebConf from july 21th to 28th
My university vacations start on June 29, but since this is my last year
and I’m attending just two courses plus the teaching assistance, I think
it won’t be a problem. Also, the classes start back in early August, but
I won’t have any more courses to attend in this next semester. I don’t
have any schedule trips besides DebConf, from July 21th to 28th (let me
know if any other Git community members plan to attend too, please). All
changes in availability will be communicated to the mentors in advance.
# Project Relevance and after GSoC plans
As already pointed out, this project will make it feasible to improve
(or add) parallelism in many Git commands. And that’s what I plan to do
after (or even during) GSoC, mainly with git-blame and git-grep. I’m
also trying to form a local community at FLUSP to keep contributing to Git.
Patches at Linux Kernel
staging: iio: ad2s1210: fix 'assignment operator' style checks
staging:iio:ad2s90: Make read_raw return spi_read's error code
staging:iio:ad2s90: Make probe handle spi_setup failure
staging:iio:ad2s90: Remove always overwritten assignment
staging:iio:ad2s90: Move device registration to the end of probe
staging:iio:ad2s90: Add IIO_CHAN_INFO_SCALE to channel spec and read_raw
staging:iio:ad2s90: Check channel type at read_raw
staging:iio:ad2s90: Add device tree support
staging:iio:ad2s90: Remove spi setup that should be done via dt
staging:iio:ad2s90: Add max frequency check at probe
dt-bindings:iio:resolver: Add docs for ad2s90
staging:iio:ad2s90: Replace license text w/ SPDX identifier
staging:iio:ad2s90: Add comment to device state mutex
staging:iio:ad2s90: Move out of staging
 Some of them can be seen here:
 GSoC’s official start date