#fork #once-cell #process #replace #primitive #data #sync

wipe-on-fork

A replacement to OnceCell, LazyCell, Once, OnceLock, LazyLock that wipes itself when being forked in Unix

5 releases

0.2.3 Jan 25, 2024
0.2.2 Jan 25, 2024
0.2.1 Jan 25, 2024
0.2.0 Jan 25, 2024
0.1.0 Jan 24, 2024

#283 in Rust patterns

24 downloads per month

MIT/Apache

315KB
1.5K SLoC

Wipe-on-fork OnceCell, LazyCell, Once, OnceLock, LazyLock for Rust

a group of people cleaning the room

There has been a conspiracy theory on who created the pyramids: Egyptians or aliens. Similarly, thousands of years later, we can expect futurelings to ask who invented the Internet: humans or aliens?

A historian, at that time, can cite the HTTP status code 418 I'm a teapot, which was originally an April Fools' prank, to prove that HTTP was invented by living creatures that drink tea, make teapots, and carry a sense of humors. Shane Brunswick, who created the save418.com website that was crucial in the effort to not discard 418, said "It's a reminder that the underlying processes of computers are still made by humans."

Similar things happen in other areas of computer science. fork() being one of them. It is a way for one process to create another process. In HotOS 2019, four highly reputable computer systems researchers—Andrew Baumann, Jonathan Appavoo, Orran Krieger, and Timothy Roscoe—in their paper A fork() in the road, have discussed why people should avoid fork(), despite that it has been the core of POSIX and operating systems designs and has been widely used. A parallel universe may not have fork().

Since fork() is a low-level operating systems primitive that performs changes in a way that applications are close to being transparent to, it always has a compatability issue. For Rust, it has been a headache (see https://github.com/rust-lang/rust/issues/6930, https://github.com/rust-lang/rust/issues/9373, https://github.com/rust-lang/rust/issues/9568, https://github.com/rust-lang/rust/issues/16799).

This calls for a replacement to the lazy_static! above that child processes would need to run their own rather than inherit it from the parent. This is closely related to a concept called "wipe-on-fork" in Linux madvise function, which allows a program to advise the operating system to wipe a page upon being forked:

MADV_WIPEONFORK (since Linux 4.14)

Present the child process with zero-filled memory in this range after a fork(2). This is useful in forking servers in order to ensure that sensitive per-process data (for example, PRNG seeds, cryptographic secrets, and so on) is not handed to child processes.

Therefore, we adopt this naming convention and creates a number of data structures.

This repository re-implements (copy-pastes, but with some modifications) the following structures from Rust's std library:

Rust std Library This library
std::cell::OnceCell wipe_on_fork::WipeOnForkOnceCell
std::cell::LazyCell wipe_on_fork::WipeOnForkLazyCell
std::sync::Once wipe_on_fork::WipeOnForkOnce
std::sync::OnceLock wipe_on_fork::WipeOnForkOnceLock
std::sync::LazyLock wipe_on_fork::WipeOnForkLazyLock

Most of the code, including the documentation tests, are copy-and-pasted from Rust std library in rust-lang/rust. We did so rather than using the existing primitives in a black-box manner—which would always be the preferred choice—because (1) some are still pending stabilization, (2) some necessary types or functions are only accessible within the std crate, (3) certain changes from us require more low-level manipulation.

The usage fo the wipe-on-fork versions of OnceCell, LazyCell, Once, OnceLock, LazyLock resembles their keep-on-fork counterparts. It is necessary to note that these wipe-on-fork versions are not "better" or "more general-purpose" implementations. Some applications would specifically require wipe-on-fork, while other applications would specifically require keep-on-fork. This is why we include the prefix WipeOnFork* to remind that they are related but fundamentally different upon fork().

Note that fork() is not the only solution to create child processes. Indeed, a more favorable solution, though less convenient, is to posix_spawn() new processes. This has been used in Dask, but not in Ray (see discussion in https://github.com/ray-project/ray/issues/13568). The use of wipe-on-fork primitives is to offer compatibility upon composability, as anywhere, any thread of a process can make a call to fork(), and the less destructive solution is, like thread safety, to write code with fork safety.

Fork detection

There are two approaches to detect a fork on the background.

We eventually did not go with the PID approach because it has an inherent limitation. In Unix, there is no guarantee that PID does not repeat. In fact, assuming that the entire operating system already has pid_max - 3 processes (note: since pid_max is 2^22 in 64-bit systems, this is very unlikely):

  • The father has PID a
  • The father forks and creates the son with PID b
  • The son forks and creates the grandson with PID c
  • The father passes away, leaving a available to be reused by the operating system
  • The grandson forks and can expect to obtain PID a for the great-grandson
  • If the father creates and initializes an Once, and this Once remains untouched by the son and the grandson, when the great-grandson first uses it, it cannot distinguish whether this Once should be wiped or not.

Although this is extremely niche, as most consumer memory is unlikely capable to have pid_max processes, we choose to go with a more resilient approach.

We introduce a notion of generations. When a wipe-on-fork object is being initialized for the very first time, it would be the first generation (i.e., with generation ID 0). This generation ID is stored in a global variable.

pub struct GenerationCounter {
    pub(crate) gen: Mutex<Option<u64>>,
}

// implementations of `GenerationCounter`

pub(crate) static GENERATION: GenerationCounter = GenerationCounter::new();

We register a fork handler using pthread_atfork(). Each time it is being forked, we ask to increment this counter. Since the future generations would inherit this fork handler.

unsafe extern "C" fn update_generations() {
    let mut lock = GENERATION.gen.lock().unwrap();
    if lock.is_some() {
        *lock = Some(lock.unwrap() + 1);
    } else {
        panic!("The generation counter is expected to have started.");
    }
}

impl GenerationCounter {
    pub fn get(&self) -> u64 {
        // code before pthread_atfork
        unsafe {
            libc::pthread_atfork(None, None, Some(update_generations));
        }
        // code after pthread_atfork
    }
}

This fixes the problem because the great-grandson here is guaranteed to have a generation ID of 3.

Implementation detail

We now highlight how each is being implemented.

OnceCell

Recall that the std::cell::OnceCell is implemented as follows.

pub struct OnceCell<T> {
    inner: UnsafeCell<Option<T>>,
}

Our implementation is as follows.

pub struct WipeOnForkOnceCell<T> {
    generation_id: Cell<Option<u64>>,
    inner: UnsafeCell<Option<T>>,
    _not_send_sync: PhantomData<*const ()>,
}

We use Cell to host Option<u64> so that we can modify the generation ID even if we only have a non-mutable reference to WipeOnForkOnceCell<T>. The use of _not_send_sync is a hack to implement the negative trait !Sync which is not supported outside the standard library. See discussion here for this hack.

We run the check wipe_if_should_wipe on get(), get_mut(), set(), try_insert(), and into_inner(). If it is time to wipe, it clears the cell.

#[inline]
fn wipe_if_should_wipe(&self) {
    if self.check_if_should_wipe() {
        self.generation_id.set(None);
        unsafe {
            *self.inner.get() = None;
        }
    }
}

LazyCell

Recall that the std::cell::LazyCell is implemented as follows.

enum State<T, F> {
    Uninit(F),
    Init(T),
    Poisoned,
}

pub struct LazyCell<T, F = fn() -> T> {
    state: UnsafeCell<State<T, F>>,
}

Our implementation is as follows.

enum State<T, F> {
    Uninit(F),
    Init(T, F),
    Poisoned,
}

pub struct WipeOnForkLazyCell<T, F = fn() -> T> {
    generation_id: Cell<Option<u64>>,
    state: UnsafeCell<State<T, F>>,
    _not_send_sync: PhantomData<*const ()>,
}

Most of the design considerations are the same as in OnceCell. We modify the state to keep F in Init because initialization may need to be redone in the child. We also change the type of functions in the implementation from FnOnce to FnMut to allow the function to be called several times.

A more careful wipe_if_should_wipe(), presented below, is run before get(), into_inner(), and force().

#[inline]
fn wipe_if_should_wipe(&self) {
    if self.check_if_should_wipe() {
        self.generation_id.set(None);
        
        let is_state_init = unsafe {
            match *self.state.get() {
                State::Init(_, _) => true,
                _ => false,
            }
        };
        
        if is_state_init {
            let state = unsafe { &mut *self.state.get() };
            let State::Init(_, f) = core::mem::replace(state, State::Poisoned) else {
                unreachable!()
            };
            
            unsafe { self.state.get().write(State::Uninit(f)) };
        }
    }
}

Once

Now we turn our attention to the thread-safe primitives. The core one is std::sync::Once, which is the enabler of std::sync::OnceLock and std::sync::LazyLock we are going to discuss next.

The std::sync::Once is implemented as follows.

pub struct Once {
    inner: sys::Once,
}

where sys::Once may be resolved to:

pub struct Once {
    state: AtomicU32,
}

Our implementation takes a different approach, which is as follows.

#[derive(Clone, Copy, PartialEq, Eq)]
pub enum State {
    Incomplete,
    Poisoned,
    Running,
    Complete,
}

pub struct WipeOnForkOnce {
    generation_id: Mutex<Option<u64>>,
    state: Mutex<State>,
}

which is based on the non-thread-safe implementation in https://github.com/rust-lang/rust/blob/master/library/std/src/sys/pal/unsupported/once.rs, which is as simple as follows:

pub struct Once {
    state: Cell<State>,
}

Because the std::sync::Once default implementation in Linux or Unix would involve a lot of low-level primitives. To make the construction above thread-safe, we leverage Mutex. It is fortunate that Mutex::new() is a const function (see https://github.com/rust-lang/rust/pull/97791).

Instead of Cell<Option<u64>> that we use in OnceCell and LazyCell, here we use Mutex<Option<u64>> for thread safety.

The wipe_if_should_wipe() function is run before call_once(), call_once_force(), is_completed(), and state().

#[inline]
fn wipe_if_should_wipe(&self) {
    let mut lock = self.generation_id.lock().unwrap();

    let res = match *lock {
        None => false,
        Some(generation_id) => generation_id != crate::utils::GENERATION.get(),
    };

    if res {
        *lock = None;
        *self.state.lock().unwrap() = State::Incomplete;
    }
}

OnceLock

The std::sync::OnceLock is implemented as follows.

pub struct OnceLock<T> {
    once: Once,
    value: UnsafeCell<MaybeUninit<T>>,
    _marker: PhantomData<T>,
}

Our implementation has a few differences.

pub struct WipeOnForkOnceLock<T> {
    once: WipeOnForkOnce,
    value: UnsafeCell<Option<T>>,
    _marker: PhantomData<T>,
}

We replace Once with WipeOnForkOnce. This seems to be sufficient for most of the features to work. We, however, use UnsafeCell<Option<T>> instead of UnsafeCell<MaybeUninit<T>> because we cannot use the #[may_dangle], which is unstable, in our code. However, without this attribute, the behavior of the program changes.

unsafe impl<#[may_dangle] T> Drop for OnceLock<T>  {
    // the implementation 
}

We would rather delegate back to Rust to handle the dropper. So, we change to Option<T> and let Rust enum implemenetation to handle the detail, rather than using MaybeUninit which is harder.

LazyLock

The std::sync::LazyLock is implemented as follows, with the use of union.

union Data<T, F> {
    value: ManuallyDrop<T>,
    f: ManuallyDrop<F>,
}

pub struct LazyLock<T, F = fn() -> T> {
    once: Once,
    data: UnsafeCell<Data<T, F>>,
}

But, since we need to retain the function (for initialization in the child processes), we do need to depart from this implementation. Our implementation is as follows.

pub struct WipeOnForkLazyLock<T, F = fn() -> T> {
    once: WipeOnForkOnce,
    func: UnsafeCell<ManuallyDrop<F>>,
    data: UnsafeCell<ManuallyDrop<Option<T>>>,
}

We also let the data be Option<T> because the data does not exist before lazy initialization. The rest of the code is, therefore, modified accordingly, including the dropper. Some smaller changes are made to handle taking (i.e., take()).

Behaviors not in Unix

We have not extensively test our implementation when it is used in pure Windows (not WSL, not Cygwin), but we expect it to work correctly. We basically disable the wipe-on-fork check, so that they always assume that no fork happens (which is the case since Windows does not have fork).

License

Rust is under the MIT and Apache 2 licenses (with the conjunction "or"). This repository, which copy-pastes most of the code from it, inherits the same license.

Dependencies