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Process Synchronization

Process Synchronization means sharing system resources by processes in a such a way that, Concurrent access to shared data is handled thereby minimizing the chance of inconsistent data. Maintaining data consistency demands mechanisms to ensure synchronized execution of cooperating processes.

Process Synchronization was introduced to handle problems that arose while multiple process executions. Some of the problems are discussed below.

Critical Section Problem

A Critical Section is a code segment that accesses shared variables and has to be executed as an atomic action. It means that in a group of cooperating processes, at a given point of time, only one process must be executing its critical section. If any other process also wants to execute its critical section, it must wait until the first one finishes.

Critical Section Problem

Solution to Critical Section Problem

A solution to the critical section problem must satisfy the following three conditions:

1. Mutual Exclusion

Out of a group of cooperating processes, only one process can be in its critical section at a given point of time.

2. Progress

If no process is in its critical section, and if one or more threads want to execute their critical section then any one of these threads must be allowed to get into its critical section.

3. Bounded Waiting

After a process makes a request for getting into its critical section, there is a limit for how many other processes can get into their critical section, before this process's request is granted. So after the limit is reached, system must grant the process permission to get into its critical section.

Synchronization Hardware

Many systems provide hardware support for critical section code. The critical section problem could be solved easily in a single-processor environment if we could disallow interrupts to occur while a shared variable or resource is being modified.

In this manner, we could be sure that the current sequence of instructions would be allowed to execute in order without pre-emption. Unfortunately, this solution is not feasible in a multiprocessor environment.

Disabling interrupt on a multiprocessor environment can be time consuming as the message is passed to all the processors.

This message transmission lag, delays entry of threads into critical section and the system efficiency decreases.

Mutex Locks

As the synchronization hardware solution is not easy to implement for everyone, a strict software approach called Mutex Locks was introduced. In this approach, in the entry section of code, a LOCK is acquired over the critical resources modified and used inside critical section, and in the exit section that LOCK is released.

As the resource is locked while a process executes its critical section hence no other process can access it.