Dealing with actor runtime environments on hierarchical shared memory multi-core platforms


The actor model is present in several mission-critical systems, such as those supporting WhatsApp and Facebook Chat. These systems serve thousands of clients simultaneously, therefore demanding substantial computing resources usually provided by multi-processor and multi-core platforms. Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) architectures account for an important share of these platforms. Yet, research on the suitability of the current actor runtime environments for these machines is very limited. Current runtime environments, in general, assume a flat memory space, thus not performing as well as they could. In this thesis we study the challenges hierarchical shared memory multi-core platforms present to actor runtime environments. In particular, we investigate aspects related to memory management, scheduling, and load-balancing. In this document, we analyze and characterize actor based applications to, in light of the above, propose improvements to actor runtime environments. This analysis highlighted the existence of peculiar communication structures. We argue that the comprehension of these structures and the knowledge about the underlying hardware architecture can be used in tandem to improve application performance. As a proof of concept, we implemented our proposal using a real actor runtime environment, the Erlang Virtual Machine (VM). Concurrency in Erlang is based on the actor model and the language has a consistent syntax for actor handling. Our modifications to the Erlang VM significantly improved the performance of some applications thanks to better informed decisions on scheduling and on load-balancing.

Ph.D. Thesis, University of São Paulo and University of Grenoble-Alpes