RFC: TCMalloc-style new/delete hooks

David Rigby daver at couchbase.com
Wed Oct 15 02:54:24 PDT 2014

On 14 Oct 2014, at 18:55, Jason Evans <jasone at canonware.com> wrote:

> On Oct 14, 2014, at 9:13 AM, David Rigby <daver at couchbase.com> wrote:
>> We are currently using TCMalloc as our memory allocator, however the significantly better fragmentation characteristics and deterministic lowest-available address selection of jemalloc means we want switching to jemalloc in the near future.
>> One of (the only?) sticking points however is the lack of a direct equivalent to TCMalloc’s new/delete hooks, which allow an application to register callbacks when memory is allocated/freed by the application. 
>> We use this feature to essentially perform sub-heap memory tracking, to determine how much memory different buckets (think tables/databases) are using. To be more specific, as a worker thread is assigned to a particular bucket the bucket ID is stored in TLS, and then when a new/delete callback is invoked we lookup the thread’s current bucket from TLS and increment/decrement the total used as appropriate.
>> To allow us to work with jemalloc, I’ve implemented[1] equivalent functionality in jemalloc.
>> I did consider making use of the arena functionality in jemalloc for this, but I was concerned about the potential increase in fragment ion with many arenas, which is exactly one of the reasons why we want to move away from TCMalloc (I’m proposing setting narenas=1 when we deploy).
>> How would you (Jason?) feel about merging this patch, or something conceptually similar into upstream? 
>> [1]: https://github.com/daverigby/jemalloc/commit/bbf3877d785417f03671bd1aed94723d750937d5
> I have some concerns about this functionality that have kept me from adding it so far:
> - It adds yet another branch to the fast path, whereas if you create your own wrappers and mangle jemalloc's API, it imposes no cost on applications which don't need hooks.
> - It's really tricky (and requires a messy API) to support hooks that get called for all allocations from the beginning of program execution.  I don't know of a way to pull this off short of exposing weak function pointer symbols that can be overridden during static linking or dynamic loading.
> - It can result in really surprising "impossible" behavior if the compiler makes assumptions about globally visible side effects, as does gcc.  In order to make hooks generally safe, the application must be compiled with -fno-builtin-malloc -fno-builtin-calloc -fno-builtin-realloc -fno-builtin-free.  Other compilers potentially have similar issues, possibly without escape hatches.  I worry that hooks add a documentation burden on jemalloc, and that people will repeatedly fail to take note of this requirement, leaving them with the impression that jemalloc is somehow flakey.

Thanks for the detailed comments - I appreciate the concerns from the jemalloc side of things on adding such a feature.

One complication from my side (which admittedly isn’t directly related to jemalloc) is that I need to support OS X, Windows and Linux. With TCMalloc this is straightforward: I simply link it in and take advantage of (a) it’s automatic malloc replacement on every platform (runtime patching, OS X zone replacement or ELF symbol prescience) and (b) callbacks on new/delete.

To deploy jemalloc things get much more complex:

a) No malloc replacement on Windows
b) No callbacks on new/delete

I’m still investigating the best way to solve (a) - I don’t really fancy porting all the C++ runtime patching code to C/jemalloc but if we want to use jemalloc on Windows this might be the best solution.

For (b) if I don’t add callbacks to jemalloc and instead write my own wrappers, I then need to ensure these are used - trivial on Linux, but on OS X I’ll need to clone a bunch of the zone code from jemalloc to add my own zone with the wrapper functions.

I’ll probably go down the wrapper route, but if nothing else this does highlight some integration pain-points which jemalloc has compared to TCmalloc, particularly if people are migrating from TCmalloc to jemalloc.


Dave Rigby

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