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Advanced Reference Counting Pointers for Better Performance

A computer program implements reference counting pointers (RCPs) that are lock-free, thread-safe, async-safe, and operational on a multiprocessor computer. RCPs are powerful and convenient means of managing heap memory in C++ software. Most prior RCP programs use locks to ensure thread safety and manage concurrency. The present program was developed in a continuing effort to explore ways of using the C++ programming language to develop safety-critical and mission-critical software.

This effort includes exploration of lock-free algorithms because they offer potential to avoid some costly and difficult verification problems. Unlike previously published RCP software, the present program does not use locks (meaning that no thread can block progress on another thread): Instead, this program implements algorithms that exploit capabilities of central-processing-unit hardware so as to avoid locks. Once locks are eliminated, it becomes possible to realize the other attributes mentioned in the first sentence. In addition to the abovementioned attributes, this program offers several advantages over other RCP programs that use locks: It is smaller (and, hence, is faster and uses less memory), it is immune to priority inversion, and there is no way for it to cause a C++ exception.

This program was written by William Reinholtz of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:
Innovative Technology Assets Management
JPL
Mail Stop 202-233
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
(818) 354-2240
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Refer to NPO-41196, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.