Hardware Solutions For The Critical Section Problem-Operating Systems-Lecture Notes, Study notes for Operating System. Cochin University of Science and Technology

Operating System

Description: Operating Systems is necessary course in Computer Science. Its about threading, process scheduling, deadlocks, memory management etc. This lecture includes: Hardware, Solution, Semaphores, Critical, Section, Process, Structure, Algorithm, Data, Common
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Operating Systems [CS-604] Lecture No. 21

Operating Systems

Lecture No. 21

Reading Material Chapter 7 of the textbook Lecture 21 on Virtual TV

Summary Hardware solutions

Hardware Solutions for the Critical Section Problem In this section, we discuss some simple hardware (CPU) instructions that can be used to

provide synchronization between processes and are available on many systems.

The critical section problem can be solved simply in a uniprocessor environment if

we could forbid interrupts to occur while a shared variable is being modified. In this

manner, we could be sure that the current sequence of instructions would be run, so no

unexpected modifications could be made to the shared variable.

Unfortunately this solution is not feasible in a multiprocessing environment, as

disabling interrupts can be time consuming as the message is passed to all processors.

This message passing delays entry into each critical section, and system efficiency


Normally, access to a memory location excludes other accesses to that same location.

Designers have proposed machine instructions that perform two operations atomically

(indivisibly) on the same memory location (e.g., reading and writing). The execution of

such an instruction is also mutually exclusive (even on Multiprocessors). They can be

used to provide mutual exclusion but other mechanisms are needed to satisfy the other

two requirements of a good solution to the critical section problem.

We can use these special instructions to solve the critical section problem. These

instructions are TestAndSet (also known as TestAndSetLock; TSL) and Swap. The

semantics of the TestAndSet instruction are as follows:

boolean TestAndSet(Boolean &target) { boolean rv=target; target=true; return rv; }

The semantics simply say that the instruction saves the current value of ‘target’, set it to

true, and returns the saved value.

The important characteristic is that this instruction is executed atomically. Thus if two

TestAndSet instructions are executed simultaneously, they will be executed sequentially

in some arbitrary order.



If the machine supports TestAndSet instruction, then we can implement mutual

exclusion by declaring a Boolean variable lock, initialized to false. The structure of

process Pi becomes:

do {

while (TestAndSet(lock)) ;

Critical section


Remainder section

} while(1);

The above TSL-based solution is no good because even though mutual exclusion and

progress are satisfied, bounded waiting is not.

The semantics of the Swap instruction, another atomic instruction, are, as expected, as


boolean Swap(boolean &a, boolean &b) { boolean temp=a; a=b; b=temp; }

If the machine supports the Swap instruction, mutual exclusion can be implemented

as follows. A global Boolean variable lock is declared and is initialized to false. In

addition each process also has a local Boolean variable key. The structure of process Pi


do {

key=true; while(key == true) Swap(lock,key);

Critical section


Remainder section

} while(1);

Just like the TSL-based solution shown in this section, the above Swap-based solution is

not good because even though mutual exclusion and progress are satisfied, bounded

waiting is not. In the next lecture, we will discuss a good solution for the critical section

problem by using the hardware instructions.


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