Matheus Tavares

26 Jun 2019

GSoC Week 6: Working at zlib Inflation

Tags: gsoc, git

Last week updates

Last week, I presented some git-grep time measurements with userdiff driver preloading disabled. Although we could see some speedups in some test cases, the tests were only performed in a machine with SSD storage. So we couldn’t be sure how it would affect the execution on an HDD. Because of that, my mentors and I decided to leave preloading as it is. We can maybe repeat this test in an HDD machine in the future, though.

About my dir-iterator patchset, I’m happy to say that it got queued at this topic branch! :) But it still has at least one issue to be solved: Junio pointed out that inode comparison is not sufficient to check if two files are the same as it may not be unique on cross mountpoints. Also, Johannes told me that it wouldn’t work on Windows either, as the Git-for-Windows’ port of stat() does not fill the st_ino field of struct stat. So I should think of another way to implement this file comparison, which is used to check for recursive symlinks.

Multithreading zlib inflation

By the analyzes we saw in the last two posts, zlib inflation seemed like a good spot to be made parallel. It has all the main ingredients for a well succeeded threaded work:

  1. Time expensive tasks
    git-grep spends substantial time on inflation. In fact, for the git-grep parameters we’ve been using at performance tests1, I measured the time Git spends on git_inflate() and it accounted for over 48% of the total execution time!

  2. Thread-safety
    zlib’s functions are already thread-safe.

  3. Independency between tasks
    The work performed on different zlib streams seems completely independent.

With all the above motivations, my mentors and I decided to seek for a parallel object decompression at git-grep. For a first version, the idea was not to implement it the best way possible, but to make a hacky/testing version, so that we could measure how well it would go. I started this version on top of Duy’s hacky patch on a parallel cached git-grep.

Initially, it was coming to a deadlock for some of my more complex1 test cases. After some refactoring and re-enabling the locks for the attributes machinery, though, I got to a version with no deadlocks. But unfortunatelly this was SegFault’s turn to show up. Throught GDB and valgrind it was possible to identify that the error was coming from a read after free operation on the delta base cache. But even with this information, it was getting hard to debug and to guess in which case this could be happening…

I then decided to try another pathway, starting over from master. In fact, I tried several ideas… In one of them I eliminated git-grep’s lock arround pack reading operations and inserted a lock surrounding read_object_file_extended()’s code. Then, at unpack_compressed_entry() I added a call to release the lock at the beginning and retrieve it at the end, which should, in theory, safely allow parallel threads at decompression. But this failed as the latter function is also used before the threads are created, so we would be unlocking a not yet locked mutex. I tried to solve that working out a mechanism to only unlock and re-lock after threads are running and the function was called by a thread holding the lock. Even then, I was getting errors…

And even after many ideas and work arrounds, I couldn’t get rid of either a deadlock or execution errors due to race conditions.


Pack access call chains are big and, unfortunatelly, that hinders thread-safety analyzes :( For example, even with the assurance that inflation is already thread-safe, it’s hard to visualize all possible paths from cmd_grep() until git_inflate() and guarantee that a lock is being held or avoid double looking.

Next steps

Even with the setbacks, we found a nice and promising road to walk, so my plan is to keep going and looking for other ways to allow parallel threads at inflation. One of the things I should do (or should have already done) is to compile Git with no optimizations to see if it helps debuging the errors at GDB.


  1. This was the executed command: git grep -E '(static|extern) \b(int|double)\b \*[A-Za-z]+' HEAD  2

Til next time,

Matheus Tavares