The double-checked locking pattern (DCLP) is a bit of a notorious case study in lock-free programming. Up until 2004, there was no safe way to implement it in Java. Before C++11, there was no safe way to implement it in portable C++.
The pattern gained attention for the shortcomings it exposed in those languages, and people began to write about it. In 2000, a group of high-profile Java developers got together and signed a declaration entitled “Double-Checked Locking Is Broken”. In 2004, Scott Meyers and Andrei Alexandrescu published an article entitled “C++ and the Perils of Double-Checked Locking”. Both papers are great primers on what DCLP is, and why, at the time, those languages were inadequate for implementing it.
All of that’s in the past. Java now has a revised memory model, with new semantics for the
volatile keyword, which makes it possible to implement DCLP safely. Likewise, C++11 has a shiny new memory model and atomic library which enable a wide variety of portable DCLP implementations. C++11, in turn, inspired Mintomic, a small library I released earlier this year which makes it possible to implement DCLP on some older C/C++ compilers as well.
In this post, I’ll focus on the C++ implementations of DCLP.