memory management - Compelling examples of custom C++ allocators?

ID : 20106

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Tags : c++memory-managementstdmemory-alignmentallocatorc++

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As I mention here, I've seen Intel TBB's custom STL allocator significantly improve performance of a multithreaded app simply by changing a single



std::vector<T,tbb::scalable_allocator<T> > 

(this is a quick and convenient way of switching the allocator to use TBB's nifty thread-private heaps; see page 7 in this document)

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One area where custom allocators can be useful is game development, especially on game consoles, as they have only a small amount of memory and no swap. On such systems you want to make sure that you have tight control over each subsystem, so that one uncritical system can't steal the memory from a critical one. Other things like pool allocators can help to reduce memory fragmentation. You can find a long, detailed paper on the topic at:

EASTL -- Electronic Arts Standard Template Library

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I am working on a mmap-allocator that allows vectors to use memory from a memory-mapped file. The goal is to have vectors that use storage that are directly in the virtual memory mapped by mmap. Our problem is to improve reading of really large files (>10GB) into memory with no copy overhead, therefore I need this custom allocator.

So far I have the skeleton of a custom allocator (which derives from std::allocator), I think it is a good starting point to write own allocators. Feel free to use this piece of code in whatever way you want:

#include <memory> #include <stdio.h>  namespace mmap_allocator_namespace {         // See StackOverflow replies to this answer for important commentary about inheriting from std::allocator before replicating this code.         template <typename T>         class mmap_allocator: public std::allocator<T>         { public:                 typedef size_t size_type;                 typedef T* pointer;                 typedef const T* const_pointer;                  template<typename _Tp1>                 struct rebind                 {                         typedef mmap_allocator<_Tp1> other;                 };                  pointer allocate(size_type n, const void *hint=0)                 {                         fprintf(stderr, "Alloc %d bytes.\n", n*sizeof(T));                         return std::allocator<T>::allocate(n, hint);                 }                  void deallocate(pointer p, size_type n)                 {                         fprintf(stderr, "Dealloc %d bytes (%p).\n", n*sizeof(T), p);                         return std::allocator<T>::deallocate(p, n);                 }                  mmap_allocator() throw(): std::allocator<T>() { fprintf(stderr, "Hello allocator!\n"); }                 mmap_allocator(const mmap_allocator &a) throw(): std::allocator<T>(a) { }                 template <class U>                                     mmap_allocator(const mmap_allocator<U> &a) throw(): std::allocator<T>(a) { }                 ~mmap_allocator() throw() { }         }; } 

To use this, declare an STL container as follows:

using namespace std; using namespace mmap_allocator_namespace;  vector<int, mmap_allocator<int> > int_vec(1024, 0, mmap_allocator<int>()); 

It can be used for example to log whenever memory is allocated. What is neccessary is the rebind struct, else the vector container uses the superclasses allocate/deallocate methods.

Update: The memory mapping allocator is now available at and is LGPL. Feel free to use it for your projects.

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I'm working with a MySQL storage engine that uses c++ for its code. We're using a custom allocator to use the MySQL memory system rather than competing with MySQL for memory. It allows us to make sure we're using memory as the user configured MySQL to use, and not "extra".

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It can be useful to use custom allocators to use a memory pool instead of the heap. That's one example among many others.

For most cases, this is certainly a premature optimization. But it can be very useful in certain contexts (embedded devices, games, etc).

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