Atomizer: A Dynamic Atomicity Checker For Multithreaded Programs

Cormac Flanagan Stephen N. Freund

To appear at Principles of Programming Languages (POPL04), Venice, Italy, January 14-16, 2004


Ensuring the correctness of multithreaded programs is difficult, due to the potential for unexpected interactions between concurrent threads. Much previous work has focused on detecting race conditions, but the absence of race conditions does not by itself prevent undesired thread interactions. We focus on the more fundamental non-interference property of atomicity}; a method is atomic if its execution is not affected by and does not interfere with concurrently-executing threads. Atomic methods can be understood according to their sequential semantics, which significantly simplifies reasoning about program correctness. This paper presents a dynamic analysis for detecting atomicity violations. This analysis combines ideas from both Lipton's theory of reduction and earlier dynamic race detectors. Experience with a prototype checker for multithreaded Java code demonstrates that this approach is effective for detecting errors due to unintended interactions between threads. In particular, our atomicity checker detects errors that would be missed by standard race detectors, and it produces fewer false alarms on benign races that do not cause atomicity violations.

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