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Interprocess Communication

In order to support caching as part of a unified buffer system, an interprocess communication mechanism must allow safe concurrent sharing of buffers. In other words, different protection domains must be allowed protected, concurrent access to the same buffer. For instance, a caching Web server must retain access to a cached document after it passes the document to the network subsystem or to a local client.

IO-Lite uses an IPC mechanism similar to fbufs [11] to support safe concurrent sharing. Copy-free I/O facilities that only allow sequential sharing [21,7] are not suitable for use in caching I/O systems, since only one protection domain has access to a given buffer at any time and reads are destructive.

I/O-Lite extends fbufs in two significant directions. First, it extends the fbuf approach from the network subsystem to the filesystem, including the file data cache, thus unifying the buffering of I/O data throughout the system. Second, it adapts the fbuf approach, originally designed for the x-kernel [13], to a general-purpose operating system.

IO-Lite's IPC, like fbufs, combines page remapping and shared memory. Initially, when an (immutable) buffer is transferred, VM mappings are updated to grant the receiving process read access to the buffer's pages. Once the buffer is deallocated, these mappings persist, and the buffer is added to a cached pool of free buffers associated with the I/O stream on which it was first used, forming a lazily established pool of read-only shared memory pages.

When the buffer is reused, no further VM map changes are required, except that temporary write permissions must be granted to the producer of the data, to allow it to fill the buffer. This toggling of write permissions can be avoided whenever the producer is a trusted entity, such as the OS kernel. Here, write permissions can be granted permanently, since a trusted entity can be implicitly expected to honor the buffer's immutability.

IO-Lite's worst case cross-domain transfer overhead is that of page remapping; it occurs when the producer allocates the last buffer before the first buffer is deallocated by the receiver(s). Otherwise, buffers can be recycled, and the transfer performance approaches that of shared memory.

next up previous
Next: Access Control and Allocation Up: IO-Lite Design Previous: Principles: Immutable Buffers and
Peter Druschel