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Fixing TCriticalSection

TCriticalSection (along with TMonitor [1]*) suffers from a severe design flaw in which entering/leaving different TCriticalSection instances can end up serializing your threads, and the whole can even end up performing worse than if your threads had been serialized.

This is because it’s a small, dynamically allocated object, so several TCriticalSection instances can end up in the same CPU cache line, and when that happens, you’ll have cache conflicts aplenty between the cores running the threads.

How severe can that be? Well, it depends on how many cores you have, but the more cores you have, the more severe it can get. On a quad core, a bad case of contention can easily result in a 200% slowdown on top of the serialization. And it won’t always be reproducible, since it’s related to dynamic memory allocation.

There is thankfully a simple fix for that, use TFixedCriticalSection:

   TFixedCriticalSection = class(TCriticalSection)
         FDummy : array [0..95] of Byte;

That’s it folks. This makes sure the instance size larger than 96 bytes, which means that it’ll be larger than the cache line in all current CPUs, so no serialization anymore across distinct critical section instances.

As a bonus, it also ends up using one of the larger, more aligned, FastMM bucket, which seems to improve critical section code performance by about 7%. The downside is you use more RAM… but how many critical sections do you really have?

* (11-12-01): as noted by Allen Bauer in the comments, the issue is fixed for TMonitor in XE2.