[gdal-dev] RFC 47 and Threading

Tomaka, Jacek jacek.tomaka at hexagongeospatial.com
Fri Nov 28 08:51:09 PST 2014

Blake, Even,
I played a bit with pull request #39. I enabled per dataset cache by setting GDAL_DATASET_CACHING to YES. Awesome work!
Our application code opens file in GDAL and holds GDALDataset per thread. Different threads can request same blocks but because cache should be per dataset i expected to see very little contention at the expense of some of the blocks being read multiple times.

To my surprise i saw that nothing changed in terms of time spent sleeping. After some investigation i realized that the contention point is static mutex hCOAMutex. Having noticed that i saw MUTEX_NONE ifdef there so i decided to define it to effectively get rid of mutexes in GDAL.
Guess what happened after recompilation. Because we only ever access GDALDataset from single dataset and the new GDALBlockManager is now per GDALDataset everything so far* (with the exception of PAMDataset destruction because it does not like null mutexes) works fine and scales so much better with the number of threads.

*Tested reading only using GTiff driver 4 threads reading tiles smaller than blocks, sometimes two threads can read data from the same block .

Do you see the same problem with hCOAMutex?
It would be good if i could say: give me per dataset cache, open this dataset with no locking. Unless the global cache provides its operations with less sleeping.

Jacek Tomaka
Od: gdal-dev-bounces at lists.osgeo.org [gdal-dev-bounces at lists.osgeo.org] w imieniu Blake Thompson [flippmoke at gmail.com]
Wysłano: 29 sierpnia 2014 02:35
Do: Even Rouault
DW: gdal-dev at lists.osgeo.org
Temat: Re: [gdal-dev] RFC 47 and Threading

Even and Andre,

> I want to start off by saying a big thanks to Blake for taking his time
> to tackle what can only be a very difficult problem.
>  From what I can observe, the current discussion seems to be around the
> boundary of who should be responsible for ensuring thread safety around
> the block cache. The core of GDAL versus the individual drivers.

The core will necessarily have to know about thread-safety because the block
cache is there. The discussion is more whether the drivers must also necessary
be thread aware, or if core mechanisms are sufficient to hide this detail to the
drivers. And potentially offering to drivers a mechanism to deal themselves with
thread-safety if they can have a more optimized implementation than the default

Agreed, most specifically how to hide the detail of the protection of the pointer to the block cache's data that is passed through IReadBlock, IWriteBlock, and IRasterIO.

> While I
> see why such a conversation is important, as far as I am concerned, the
> most important part should be how it affects users of GDAL at the
> interface level.


> That is, if an application that is threaded is trying
> to use GDAL, how does it ensure thread-safety? What you have to keep in
> mind is that having some parts of the library not thread-safe basically
> just pushes the mutexing/locking to the calling applications.

Not necessarily. That's what I suggested in my previous email : if the costs of
the mutex are not too expensive for non-threaded usage, then the API could
systematically return thread-safe versions, that are potentially wrapped by

So in the scope of my RFC, I am not certain how we could have a thread safe cache and a non-threadsafe cache in any simple manner. I know that you are specifically talking about the possiblity of thread safe datasets, which I feel is necessarily part of this discussion but wanted to separate the two. If the thread-safe cache is too expensive I feel like that is a major issue however, and I am doing my best to avoid any performance hits for this change.

> Also, while it is important to document thread-safety limitations, might
> I suggest adding thread-safe related capabilities (TestCapability),
> especially if all drivers do not end-up having the same thread-safety
> constraints.

That might be a solution, although not ideal from a usability point of view (if
we come with something more complex that non-thread-safe vs thread-safe, that
might be difficult to understand by users of GDAL API), and from a
GDAL-developer point of view as well (need to assess thread-safety for each
There can have subtelties : imagine that the VRT driver is made to be thread
safe, but uses sources of drivers that might be not thread safe...

> I personally do not see a GDALDatasetThreadSafe wrapper as adding much
> complexity. For instance, if you were to add a capability that indicates
> if a driver is inherently thread-safe, you could add a new open method
> to open a dataset in a thread-safe way with something like the following
> pseudocode:
> DataSet OpenThreadSafe(GDALOpenInfo openInfo)
> {
>      DataSet dataSet = Open(openInfo);
>      if (!dataSet.TestCapability(THREAD_SAFE))
>      {
>           dataSet = wrapWithThreadSafeWrapper(dataSet);
>      }
>      return dataSet;
> }

Yes, that's similar to what I imagined with my idea of GDAL_OF_THREADSAFE open

On the topic of the thread safe wrapper, I have spent more time thinking about it and I think this is probably the best solution to the problem of making all Datasets read safe, and I am willing to champion another RFC to implement this. However, the scope of this is even larger because it should be required to work with the OGR datasets as well.


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