A Verification-Based Approach to Memory Fence Insertion in PSO Memory Systems

Alexander Linden
Université de Liège
Friday, 22 February, 2013 - 16:00
NO Solvay (fifth floor)

This talk addresses the problem of verifying and correcting programs when they are moved from a sequential consistency execution environment to a relaxed memory context. Specifically, it considers the PSO (Partial Store Order) memory model, which corresponds to the use of a store buffer for each shared variable and each process. We also will consider, as an intermediate step, the TSO (Total Store Order) memory model, which corresponds to the use of one store buffer per process.

The proposed approach extends a previously developed verification tool that uses finite automata to symbolically represent the possible contents of the store buffers. Its starting point is a program that is correct for the usual Sequential Consistency (SC) memory model, but that might be incorrect under PSO with respect to safety properties. This program is then first analyzed and corrected for the TSO memory model, and then this TSO-safe program is analyzed and corrected under PSO, producing a PSO-safe program. To obtain a TSO-safe program, only store-load fences (TSO only allows store-load relaxations) are introduced into the program. Finaly, to produce a PSO-safe program, only store-store fences (PSO additionally allows store-store relaxations) are introduced.

An advantage of our technique is that the underlying symbolic verification tool makes a full exploration of program behaviors possible even for cyclic programs, which makes our approach broadly applicable. The method has been tested with an experimental implementation and can effectively handle a series of classical examples.