User-Defined Synchronization API

While the Intel® VTune™Amplifier supports a significant portion of the Windows* OS and POSIX* APIs, it is often useful for you to define your own synchronization constructs. Any specially built constructs that you create are not normally tracked by the VTune Amplifier . However, the VTune Amplifier includes the synchronization API to help you gather statistical information related to user-defined synchronization constructs.

The User-Defined Synchronization API is a per-thread function that works in resumed state. This function does not work in paused state.

Synchronization constructs may generally be modeled as a series of signals. One thread or many threads may wait for a signal from another group of threads telling them they may proceed with some action. By tracking when a thread begins waiting for a signal, and then noting when the signal occurs, the synchronization API can take a user-defined synchronization object and give you an understanding of your code. The API uses memory handles along with a set of primitives to gather statistics on the user-defined synchronization object.


The User-Defined Synchronization API works with the Threading analysis type.

Using User-Defined Synchronization API in Your Code

The following table describes the user-defined synchronization API primitives, available for use on Windows* and Linux* operating systems:

Use This Primitive

To Do This

void __itt_sync_create (void *addr, const __itt_char *objtype, const __itt_char *objname, int attribute)

Register the creation of a sync object using char or Unicode string.

void __itt_sync_rename (void *addr, const __itt_char *name)

Assign a name to a sync object using char or Unicode string, after it was created.

void __itt_sync_destroy (void *addr)

Track lifetime of the destroyed object.

· void __itt_sync_prepare (void *addr)

Enter spin loop on user-defined sync object.

void __itt_sync_cancel (void *addr)

Quit spin loop without acquiring spin object.

void __itt_sync_acquired (void *addr)

Define successful spin loop completion (sync object acquired).

void __itt_sync_releasing (void *addr)

Start sync object releasing code. This primitive is called before the lock release call.

Each API call has a single parameter, addr. The address, not the value, is used to differentiate between two or more distinct custom synchronization objects. Each unique address enables the VTune Amplifier to track a separate custom object. Therefore, to use the same custom object to protect access in different parts of your code, use the same addr parameter around each.

When properly embedded in your code, the primitives tell the VTune Amplifier when the code is attempting to perform some type of synchronization. Each prepare primitive must be paired with a cancel or acquired primitive.

Each user-defined synchronization construct may involve any number of synchronization objects. Each synchronization object must be triggered off of a unique memory handle, which the user-defined synchronization API uses to track the object. Any number of synchronization objects may be tracked at one time using the user-defined synchronization API, as long as each object uses a unique memory pointer. You can think of this as modeling objects similar to the WaitForMultipleObjects function in the Windows* OS API. You can create more complex synchronization constructs out of a group of synchronization objects; however, it is not advisable to interlace different user-defined synchronization constructs as this results in incorrect behavior.

API Usage Tips

The user-defined synchronization API requires proper placement of the primitives within your code. Appropriate usage of the user-defined synchronization API can be accomplished by following these guidelines:

  • Put a prepare primitive immediately before the code that attempts to obtain access to a synchronization object.

  • Put either a cancel primitive or an acquired primitive immediately after your code is no longer waiting for a synchronization object.

  • The releasing primitive should be used immediately before the code signals that it no longer holds a synchronization object.

  • When using multiple prepare primitives to simulate any construct that waits for multiple objects, the last individual cancel or acquired primitive on an object related to the group of prepare primitives determines if the behavior of the construct is a cancel or acquired respectively.

  • The time between a prepare primitive and an acquired primitive may be considered impact time

  • The time between a prepare primitive and a cancel primitive is considered blocking time, even though the processor does not necessarily block.

  • Improper use of the user-defined synchronization API results in incorrect statistical data.

Usage Example: User-Defined Spin-Waits

The prepare API indicates to the VTune Amplifier that the current thread is about to begin waiting for a signal on a memory location. This call must occur before you invoke the user synchronization construct. The prepare API must always be paired with a call to either the acquired or cancel API.

The following code snippet shows the use of the prepare and acquired API used in conjunction with a user-defined spin-wait construct:

long spin = 1;
. . . .
. . . .
__itt_sync_prepare((void *) &spin );
// spin wait;
__itt_sync_acquired((void *) &spin );

Using the cancel API may be applicable to other scenarios where the current thread tests the user synchronization construct and decides to do something useful instead of waiting for a signal from another thread. See the following code example:

long spin = 1;
. . . .
. . . .
__itt_sync_prepare((void *) &spin );
    __itt_sync_cancel((void *) &spin );
    // Do useful work
    . . . . .
    . . . . .
    //  Once done with the useful work, this construct will test the
    //  lock variable and try to acquire it again. Before this can
    //  be done, a call to the prepare API is required.
    __itt_sync_prepare((void *) &spin );
__itt_sync_acquired((void *) &spin);

After you acquire a lock, you must call the releasing API before the current thread releases the lock. The following example shows how to use the releasing API:

long spin = 1;
. . . .
. . . .
__itt_sync_releasing((void *) &spin );
// Code here should free the resource

Usage Example: User-Defined Synchronized Critical Section

The following code snippet shows how to create a critical section construct that can be tracked using the user-defined synchronization API:

  __itt_sync_prepare((void*) &cs);
    // Code to actually acquire the lock goes here
    __itt_sync_acquired((void*) &cs);
    __itt_sync_cancel((void*) &cs );
        __itt_sync_releasing((void*) &cs);
        // Code to actually release the lock goes here

This simple critical section example demonstrates how to use the user-defined synchronization primitives. When looking at this example, note the following points:

  • Each prepare primitive is paired with an acquired primitive or a cancel primitive.

  • The prepare primitive is placed immediately before the user code begins waiting for the user lock.

  • The acquired primitive is placed immediately after the user code actually obtains the user lock.

  • The releasing primitive is placed before the user code actually releases the user lock. This ensures that another thread does not call the acquired primitive before the VTune Amplifier realizes that this thread has released the lock.

Usage Example: User-Level Synchronized Barrier

Higher level constructs, such as barriers, are also easy to model using the synchronization API. The following code snippet shows how to create a barrier construct that can be tracked using the synchronization API:

    teamflag = false;
    __itt_sync_releasing((void *) &counter);
    InterlockedIncrement(&counter);  // use the atomic increment primitive appropriate to your OS and compiler

    if( counter == thread count )
        __itt_sync_acquired((void *) &counter);
        __itt_sync_releasing((void *) &teamflag);
        teamflag = true;
        counter = 0;
        __ itt_sync_prepare((void *) &teamflag);
        Wait for team flag
        __ itt_sync_acquired((void *) &teamflag);

When looking at this example, note the following points:

  • There are two synchronization objects in this barrier code. The counter object is used to do a gather-like signaling from all the threads to the final thread indicating that each thread has entered the barrier. Once the last thread hits the barrier it uses the teamflag object to signal all the other threads that they may proceed.

  • As each thread enters the barrier it calls __itt_sync_releasing to tell the VTune Amplifier that it is about to signal the last thread by incrementing counter

  • The last thread to enter the barrier calls __itt_sync_acquired to tell the VTune Amplifier that it was successfully signaled by all the other threads.

  • The last thread to enter the barrier calls __itt_sync_releasing to tell the VTune Amplifier that it is going to signal the barrier completion to all the other threads by setting teamflag

  • Each thread, except the last, calls the __itt_sync_prepare primitive to tell the VTune Amplifier that it is about to start waiting for the teamflag signal from the last thread.

  • Finally, before leaving the barrier, each thread calls the __itt_sync_acquired primitive to tell the VTune Amplifier that it successfully received the end-of-barrier signal.

For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see our Optimization Notice.
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