Exposing Non-Atomic Methods of Concurrent Objects

Michael Emmi, Constantin Enea

Multithreaded software is typically built with specialized concurrent objects like atomic integers, queues, and maps. These objects' methods are designed to behave according to certain consistency criteria like atomicity, despite being optimized to avoid blocking and exploit parallelism, e.g., by using atomic machine instructions like compare and exchange (cmpxchg). Exposing atomicity violations is important since they generally lead to elusive bugs that are difficult to identify, reproduce, and ultimately repair. In this work we expose atomicity violations in concurrent object implementations from the most widely-used software development kit: The Java Development Kit (JDK). We witness atomicity violations via simple test harnesses containing few concurrent method invocations. While stress testing is effective at exposing violations given catalytic test harnesses and lightweight means of falsifying atomicity, divining effectual catalysts can be difficult, and atomicity checks are generally cumbersome. We overcome these problems by automating test-harness search, and establishing atomicity via membership in precomputed sets of acceptable return-value outcomes. Our approach enables testing millions of executions of each harness each second (per processor core). This scale is important since atomicity violations are observed in very few executions (tens to hundreds out of millions) of very few harnesses (one out of hundreds to thousands). Our implementation is open source and publicly available.

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