C++ bindings for libpmemobj (epilogue) - converting existing applications

During the development of the C++ bindings, we wrote a couple of examples and even more tests. But these are new applications written from scratch to understand persistence. While this approach is OK for newly developed apps, there is a lot of existing code out there that is not designed for persistent memory. It would be a real shame, if the existing solutions couldn’t benefit from the existence of persistent memory because of the amount of work needed to redesign and change them. This was one of the main pain points that we wanted to address with the C++ bindings. We tried to make them as seamless to use and as easily introducible to existing software as possible. In this blog post I will show you exactly how much work is necessary to change an implementation of a ctree from oblivious to fully persistent memory aware.

The transient ctree

The implementation of the transient object oriented ctree is based on the example written by @pbalcer, which can be found here. There are of course a couple of differences, the most significant being the decision to not use the object type for insertion logic. The thing is, you could do it if you made the inheritance non-virtual and made sure to never destroy objects through base class pointers. However due to our strict policy about warnings and errors, I decided to do it in a bit different way. Other than that, the C and C++ implementations are very similar.

First and foremost, if you’re switching to C++11, and you obviously are if you want to use our C++ bindings, use auto as much as possible. This will greatly reduce the amount of changes you need to make. So for example:

// do this
auto new_node = new node();
auto leaf = get_leaf(key, &parent);

// instead of this
node *new_node = new node();
entry *lead = get_leaf(key, &parent);

If you have this and are used to defining typedefs for your structure types, you have most of the work done already! If you think that this will be a long and complicated blog post on how much magic you’d have to utilize, you are mistaken - we are nearly done (sorry, there will be no magic this time).

The process of adaptation

The first thing you need to do is change all your data members to persistent data members. Just wrap the simple types with the p<> template and the rest in persistent_ptr<>. So in the case of the ctree example:

typedef T *value_type;
key_type key;
node *inode;
entry *root;

Change to:

typedef pmem::obj::persistent_ptr<T> value_type;
pmem::obj::p<key_type> key;
pmem::obj::persistent_ptr<node> inode;
pmem::obj::persistent_ptr<entry> root;

The next thing you have to take into account are the allocations and frees. You have to use the make_persistent and delete_persistent respectively. This is where it gets just a bit tricky, because:

ctree_map_transient() : root(new entry())
// changes to
auto pop = pmem::obj::pool_by_vptr(this); // get the pool handle

    pmem::obj::transaction::exec_tx( // make the allocation atomic
    	pop, [&] { root = pmem::obj::make_persistent<entry>(); });


You might be wondering, why not just use the make_persistent_atomic and not do a one-line transaction? Well, the constructor itself might be called in a transaction, and by now I’m sure you know, that the atomic and transactional API are not meant to be used together.

Besides the constructor, all the other allocations are just mechanical changes:

auto new_node = new node();
// changes to
auto new_node = pmem::obj::make_persistent<node>();

The necessary changes to deletions are also straightforward:

delete dest_entry->value;
// changes to

Because the API of the ctree has to be atomic with respect to persistence, there are a lot of transaction::exec_tx calls inside each public method. This is manual work that has to be done if you want your tree to be consistent at all times. And believe me, you do.

The last thing you need to do is open a pool and allocate a ctree instance from it. If you have been thorough about your changes, you now have a persistent memory resident data structure. You might want to check it with pmemcheck though, just in case.

The persistent ctree

The implementation is most certainly not optimal, because it was to serve as an example on exactly how much effort is needed to make algorithms/data structures persistent memory aware. As it turns out, fairly little.

The whole example is available here and as always I urge you to play with it, change it and hopefully write something of your own.


With this I believe we have concluded this series of blog posts on C++. Together with @pbalcer we have introduced all of the major components of the C++ bindings to libpmemobj. We have also shown how to adapt your existing applications to persistent memory using C++. What is left now is for you to use our bindings and give us feedback. Remember the C++ bindings are still an experimental API. We are doing our best to see whether this API holds or if it needs some tweaks, but your feedback is invaluable. Thank you!

[This entry was edited on 2017-12-11 to reflect the name change from NVML to PMDK.]
[This entry was edited on 2018-07-06 to change links to examples]
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