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10.1: Introduction to Concurrency

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    Concurrency in Operating System

    Concurrency is the execution of a set of multiple instruction sequences at the same time. This occurs when there are several process threads running in parallel. These  threads communicate with the other threads/processes through a concept of shared memory or through message passing. Because concurrency results in the sharing of system resources - instructions, memory, files - problems can occur. like deadlocks and resources starvation. (we will talk about starvation and deadlocks in the next module).

    Principles of Concurrency :
    With current technology such as multi core processors, and parallel processing, which allow for multiple processes/threads to be executed concurrently - that is at the same time - it is possible to have more than a single process/thread accessing the same space in memory, the same declared variable in the code, or even attempting to read/write to the same file.

    The amount of time it takes for a process to execute is not easily calculated, so we are unable to predict which process will complete first, thereby allowing us to implement algorithms to deal with the issues that concurrency creates. The amount of time a process takes to complete depends on the following:

    • The activities of other processes
    • The way operating system handles interrupts
    • The scheduling policies of the operating system

    Problems in Concurrency :

    • Sharing global resources
      Sharing of global resources safely is difficult. If two processes both make use of a global variable and both make changes to the variables value, then the order in which various changes take place are executed is critical.
    • Optimal allocation of resources
      It is difficult for the operating system to manage the allocation of resources optimally.
    • Locating programming errors
      It is very difficult to locate a programming error because reports are usually not reproducible due to the different states of the shared components each time the code runs.
    • Locking the channel
      It may be inefficient for the operating system to simply lock the resource and prevent its use by other processes.

    Advantages of Concurrency :

    • Running of multiple applications
      Having concurrency allows the operating system to run multiple applications at the same time.
    • Better resource utilization
      Having concurrency allows the resources that are NOT being used by one application can be used for other applications.
    • Better average response time
      Without concurrency, each application has to be run to completion before the next one can be run.
    • Better performance
      Concurrency provides better performance by the operating system. When one application uses only the processor and another application uses only the disk drive then the time to concurrently run both applications to completion will be shorter than the time to run each application consecutively.

    Drawbacks of Concurrency :

    • When concurrency is used, it is pretty much required to protect multiple processes/threads from one another.
    • Concurrency requires the coordination of multiple processes/threads through additional sequences of operations within the operating system.
    • Additional performance enhancements are necessary within the operating systems to provide for switching among applications.
    • Sometimes running too many applications concurrently leads to severely degraded performance.

    Issues of Concurrency :

    • Non-atomic 
      Operations that are non-atomic but interruptible by multiple processes can cause problems. (an atomic operation is one that runs completely independently of any other processes/threads - any process that is dependent on another process/thread is non-atomic)
    • Race conditions 
      A race condition is a behavior which occurs in software applications where the output is dependent on the timing or sequence of other uncontrollable events. Race conditions also occur in software which supports multithreading, use a distributed environment or are interdependent on shared resources
    • Blocking 
      A process that is blocked is one that is waiting for some event, such as a resource becoming available or the completion of an I/O operation.[Processes can block waiting for resources. A process could be blocked for long period of time waiting for input from a terminal. If the process is required to periodically update some data, this would be very undesirable.
    • Starvation 
      A problem encountered in concurrent computing where a process is perpetually denied necessary resources to process its work. Starvation may be caused by errors in a scheduling or mutual exclusion algorithm, but can also be caused by resource leaks
    • Deadlock 
      In concurrent computing, a deadlock is a state in which each member of a group waits for another member, including itself, to take action, such as sending a message or more commonly releasing a lock. Deadlocks are a common problem in multiprocessing systems, parallel computing, and distributed systems, where software and hardware locks are used to arbitrate shared resources and implement process synchronization

    Adapted from:
    "Concurrency in Operating System" by pp_pankajGeeks for Geeks is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    This page titled 10.1: Introduction to Concurrency is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Patrick McClanahan.