2 releases

0.1.1 Dec 16, 2023
0.1.0 Dec 2, 2023

#317 in Memory management

MIT license

256 lines


A no_std (alloc) arena that acts similarly to a Slab<Rc<T>> but with better performance and less features.

This arena stores reference counts with the objects in a continuous buffer, which decreases the need for multiple small memory allocations. References can be cloned and act like normal Rcs. When all references to an object is dropped, the space is made available for a new object, and if the arena is dropped, the underlying buffer may also be dropped.

This arena features constant time inserts, derefs, and drops while allocating less often, decreasing memory fragmentation, having increased performance (depending on the allocator), and potentially using less memory.

RefArena does not support Weak references and probably will not in the indefinite future.

This library uses a decent amount of unsafe code, and is partially tested with miri. It should be safe since the code isn't too complex, but beware of bugs.


use ref_arena::{RefArena, RcRef};

let mut arena: RefArena<i32> = RefArena::new();

// Create a reference
let reference: RcRef<i32> = arena.insert(5);

// Deref to get the inner value
let inner = *reference;
assert_eq!(inner, 5);

// We can create clones of the reference just like an Rc!
let clone = reference.clone();
assert_eq!(*clone, 5);

// References can be held even after the arena is dropped.
assert_eq!(*reference, 5);

// Objects (and internal buffers) are dropped when
// all references are dropped.


Note: These benchmarks are very specific and cater to the creation of lots of small objects.

Additionally these benchmarks may vary system-to-system and allocator-to-allocator.

Allocating 10k Rcs:

std::rc::Rc   allocate 10_000  247.59 μs
RefArena      allocate 10_000  48.57 μs

~5x speedup

Dereferencing 10k Rcs:

std::rc::Rc   deref 10_000     4.97 μs
RefArena      deref 10_000     4.86 μs

no speedup

Dereferencing should be about the same within both since it's a simple pointer dereference.

Dropping 10k Rcs:

std::rc::Rc   drop 10_000      134.35 μs
RefArena      drop 10_000      29.06 μs

~4.62x speedup

Reallocating 10k Rcs:

RefArena      realloc 10_000   45.62 μs

In this case 10k RcRefs were allocated and dropped, and we measured the time it took to put 10k objects back onto the arena. (Compare to allocate)

Comparison to rc_arena

rc_arena is similar to ref_arena in that they are arenas that return reference counted objects. Both contain inner buffers that hold contiguous lists of objects.

The main difference between the two is that rc_arena does not individually count objects. When all references of an object are dropped in ref_arena, the inner object is dropped and the space is made available for a new insertion (similar to slab and stable-vec), whereas in rc_arena the space is never made available again.

rc_arena is useful if you have a determinite amount of objects that need to be reference counted, where ref_arena is useful when you frequently create and drop objects.

Note this comparison might not be 100% correct as it's just what I could tell from looking at the code and documentation. Additionally this crate was not made with rc_arena in mind.

License: MIT

No runtime deps