Takeaways from Gael Fraiteur’s multithreading talk

After watching Gael’s recent SkillsMatter talk on multithreading I’ve put together some notes from a very educational talk:


Hardware Cache Hierarchy


Four levels of cache

  • L1 (per core) – typically used for instructions
  • L2 (per core)
  • L3 (per die)
  • DRAM (all processors)

Data can be cached in multiple caches, and synchronization happens through an asynchronous message bus.

The latency increases as you go down the different levels of cache:



Memory Reordering

Cache operations are in general optimized for performance as opposed to logical behaviour, hence depending on the architecture (x86, AMD, ARM7, etc.) cache loads and store operations can be reordered and executed out-of-order:


To add to this memory reordering behaviour at a hardware level, the CLR can also:

  • cache data into register
  • reorder
  • coalesce writes

The volatile keyword stops the compiler optimizations, that’s all, it does not stop the hardware level optimizations.

This is where memory barrier comes in, to ensure serial access to memory and to force data to be flushed and synchronized across all the local cache, this is done via the Thread.MemoryBarrier method in .Net.



Operations on longs cannot be performed in an atomic way on a 32-bit architecture, it’s possible to get partially modified value.



Interlocks provides the only locking mechanism at hardware level, the .Net framework provides access to these instructions via the Interlocked class.

On the Intel architecture, interlocks are typically implemented on the L3 cache, a fact that’s reflected by the latency associated with using Interlocked increments compared with non-interlocked:


CompareExchange is the most important tool when it comes to implemented lock-free algorithms, but since it’s implemented on the L3 cache, in a multi-processor environment it would require one of the processor to take out a global lock, hence why the contented case above takes much longer.

You can analyse the performance of your application at a CPU level using Intel’s vTune Amplifier XE tool.



Threads do not exist at a hardware level, CPU only understands tasks and it has no concept of ‘wait’. Synchronization constructs such as semaphores and mutex are built on top of interlocked operations.

One core can never do more than 1 ‘thing’ at the same time, unless it’s hyper-threaded in which case the core can do something else whilst waiting on some resource to continue executing the original task.

A task runs until interrupted by hardware (I/O interrupt) or OS.


Windows Kernel

A process has:

  • private virtual address space
  • resources
  • at least 1 thread

A thread is:

  • a program (sequence of instructions)
  • CPU state
  • wait dependencies

Threads can wait for dispatcher objects (WaitHandle) – Mutex, Semaphore, Event, Timer or another thread, when they’re not waiting for anything they’re placed in the waiting queue by the thread scheduler until it is their turn to be executed on the CPU.

After a thread has been executed for some time, it is then moved back to the waiting queue (via a kernel interrupt) to give some other thread a slice of the available CPU time. Alternatively, if the thread needs to wait for a dispatcher object then it goes back to the waiting state.


Dispatcher objects reside in the kernel and can be shared among different processes, they’re very expensive!


Which is why you don’t want to use kernel objects for waits that are typically very short, instead they’re best used when waiting for something that takes longer to return, e.g. I/O.

Compared to other wait methods (e.g. Thread.Sleep, Thread.Yield, WaitHandle.Wait, etc.) Thread.SpinWait is an odd ball because it’s not a kernel method, it resembles a continuous loop (it keeps ‘spinning’) but it tells a hyper-threaded CPU that it’s ok to do something else. It’s generally useful when you know the interrupt will happen very quickly and hence saving you from an unnecessary context switch. If the interrupt does not happen quickly as expected, the SpinWait will be transformed into a normal thread wait (Thread.Sleep) to avoid wasting CPU cycles.


.Net Framework Thread Synchronization



The lock Keyword

  1. start with interlocked operations (no contention)
  2. continue with ‘spin wait’
  3. create kernel event and wait

Good performance if low contention.


Design Patterns

  • Thread unsafe
  • Actor
  • Reader-Writer Synchronized

This is where the PostSharp multithreading toolkit comes to the rescue! It can help you implement each of these patterns automatically, Gael has talked more about the toolkit in this blog post.

DDD SouthWest 4.0 and VBUG Bristol

I gave a talk about Aspect Oriented Programming at this year’s DDD South West, the slides is available on SlideShare:

The source code I used can be found here.


A big thank you to the guys for making DDD South West the great event it was and for having me on-board this year, I had plenty of fun! Hope everyone who made it to my session enjoyed what I had to say and are thinking about using AOP in their projects.

If you couldn’t come to the session I’ll be talking to VBUG Bristol on the 13th June so hope to see you then!

Recording for my webinar with PostSharp

Again, I’d like to thank Igal Tabachnik and SharpCrafters for inviting me to do the webinar, the recording of the session is now available on their Vimeo channel.

Pseudo Real Time Performance Monitoring with AOP and AWS CloudWatch from SharpCrafters on Vimeo.


Performance Monitoring with AOP and Amazon CloudWatch

View more PowerPoint from Yan Cui


Source code is available at http://aop-demo.s3.amazonaws.com/RTPerfMonDemo.zip

Slides and Source Code for my webinar with PostSharp

Following my recent webinar with SharpCrafters on how to setup pseudo real-time performance monitoring using Aspect Oriented Programming and Amazon CloudWatch, I’d like to say thanks to the guys for having me, it was a great fun Smile

For anyone interested, the source code is available at:


If you want to run the demo console app to generate some data, you need to put your AWS key and secret in the App.config file in the Demo.ConsoleApp project:


Just go to aws.amazon.com and create an account, you’ll then be given an access key and secret to use.

The slides for the session is also available to download on SlideShare:


PostSharp webinar

I will be doing a webinar with the good folks of PostSharp on the 22nd March to talk about the use of AOP and AWS CloudWatch as a pseudo real-time performance monitoring tool (see high-level overview here).

It’s a free webinar, it runs from 22nd March 3PM – 4PM GMT, the registration link is here.


Hope to see you there Smile