Technical Report CS-2013-04

Title: A Programming Language Perspective on Transactional Memory Consistency
Authors: Hagit Attiya, Alexey Gotsman, Sandeep Hans, Noam Rinetzky
Abstract: Transactional memory (TM) has been hailed as a paradigm for simplifying concurrent programming. While several consistency conditions have been suggested for TM, they fall short of formalizing the intuitive semantics of atomic blocks, the interface through which a TM is used in a programming language.

To close this gap, we formalize the intuitive expectations of a programmer as observational refinement between TM implementations: a concrete TM observationally refines an abstract one if every user-observable behavior of a program using the former can be reproduced if the program uses the latter. This allows the programmer to reason about the behavior of a program using the intuitive semantics formalized by the abstract TM; the observational refinement relation implies that the conclusions will carry over to the case when the program uses the concrete TM. We show that, for a particular programming language and notions of observable behavior, a variant of the well-known consistency condition of opacity is sufficient for observational refinement, and its restriction to complete histories is furthermore necessary.

Our results suggest a new approach to evaluating and comparing TM consistency conditions. They can also reduce the effort of proving that a TM implements its programming language interface correctly, by only requiring its developer to show that it satisfies the corresponding consistency condition.

CopyrightThe above paper is copyright by the Technion, Author(s), or others. Please contact the author(s) for more information

Remark: Any link to this technical report should be to this page (, rather than to the URL of the PDF or PS files directly. The latter URLs may change without notice.

To the list of the CS technical reports of 2013
To the main CS technical reports page

Computer science department, Technion