A Highly Concurrent Priority Queue Based on the B-link Tree
University of Florida, Department of CIS
Electronic Tech Report #007-91
August 18, 1991
We present a highly concurrent priority queue algorithm based on the B-link tree, which is
a B+-tree in which every node has a pointer to its right sibling. The algorithm is built on the
concurrent B-link tree algorithms proposed by Lehman and Yao  and Sagiv . Since the
priority queue is based on highly concurrent search structure algorithms, a large number of insert
operations can execute concurrently with little or no interference. We present two algorithms for
executing the deletemin operation. The first algorithm executes deletemin operations serially, but we
show that it can support a higher throughput that previous shared memory concurrent priority queue
algorithms because most deletemin operations execute very quickly. The second deletemin algorithm
uses the fetch-and-add operation to allow several deletemin operations to execute concurrently, and
can support a much higher throughput.
A priority queue handles two operations: insert and deletemin. The insert operation puts a key into
the queue, and the deletemin operation removes the smallest key from the queue and returns it. A
concurrent priority queue handles many insert and deletemin requests simultaneously. The operations
on a concurrent priority queue should satisfy a serializability condition such as strict serializability or
decisive operation serializability . Concurrent priority queues can be useful in parallel processor
scheduling (especially real-time processor scheduling). In addition, concurrent priority queues are useful
for a variety of parallel algorithms [17, 18, 16].
Many concurrent priority queues have been proposed, usually based on a heap structured tree. In
a heap structured tree, the key in a child is greater than the key in the parent. As a result, the root
must have the lowest key in the entire tree, so a deletemin operation always removes the root. Quinn
and Yoo  describe a parallel algorithm for removing an element from a heap structured tree. Biswas
and Brown  propose a concurrent priority queue based on a nearly complete heap-structured binary
tree. Their algorithm, which allows concurrent inserts and deletemins, is a based on the usual priority
queue algorithm . The authors use a special locking protocol to prevent deadlock between descending
deletemin restructuring operations and ascending insert restructuring operations. Rao and Kumar 
propose an algorithm similar to the one in , except that the insert operations restructure top-down.
Anani  proposes an extension to Rao and Kumar's algorithm that evenly hashes insert operations to
the external nodes. Jones  proposes a priority queue based on the skew heap ,a self-adjusting heap-
ordered binary tree. This algorithm admits a simple lock-coupling algorithm because both insert and
deletemin operations restructure the priority queue top-down. Herlihy  proposes a wait-free concurrent
priority queue algorithm based on the skew heap. In addition to the shared memory concurrent priority
queues, Fan and Cheng  propose a pipelined VLSI priority queue that uses a sorting and a merging
An obvious problem with concurrent priority queues based on a heap-structured binary tree is that
the root is a serialization bottleneck. To avoid the serialization bottleneck, we propose a concurrent
priority queue based on a different data structure, the B-link tree. A B-link tree is a B+-tree in which
each node has a pointer to its right neighbor . The leftmost child of a B-tree will always contain the
smallest key. Thus, the leaf level of a B-link tree is an ordered list, and the internal nodes of the B-link
tree form an index into the list. Many inserts of low-priority items can occur simultaneously with a
deletemin operation with little or no interference.
2 The Concurrent Priority Queue
As a starting point for a concurrent priority queue algorithm based on a B-link tree we use the concurrent
algorithms that have been proposed for the B-link tree [19, 15, 14]. These algorithms have been found to
allow the highest throughput and to cause the least serialization delays among the existing concurrent
B+-tree algorithms [10, 9], a further indication that the B-link tree is a promising data structure. The
idea behind the B-link tree algorithms is the use of the half-split operation (see figure 1). When an
operation attempts to insert a key into a full node, it first half-splits the node, then inserts in the parent
node a pointer to the newly created sibling. For a period of time, the sibling exists in the B-link tree
with no corresponding entry in the parent. Operations can still navigate to the sibling during this period
of time due the sibling pointers in each node. Each node stores the value of the largest key that might
be found in the subtree rooted at that node. If an operation is searching for a larger key, it visits the
node's right sibling.
Our concurrent priority queue algorithm builds upon Sagiv's , which is an improvement of the
Lehman-Yao algorithm . In Sagiv's algorithm, no operation holds more than one lock at a time.
Search operations start by placing a shared lock on the root of the B-link tree, determining the next
node to examine, and removing the lock on the root. (Sagiv didn't use shared locks, assuming instead
that nodes may be read and written atomically). The search operation continues in this fashion until it
finds the leaf that might contain the key it is searching for, at which point it searches that leaf, unlocks
the leaf, and returns. An insert operation starts by searching for the key that it is inserting. The insert
operation places an exclusive lock on the leaf, and performs the insert operation. If the leaf is too full,
it half-splits the leaf, releases the lock on the leaf, locks the parent, and inserts a pointer to the sibling
in the parent. If the parent is too full, the the parent is half-split and the restructuring continues until
either a non-full parent node is reached or the root is split.
A priority queue requires deletemin operations in addition to the insert operations. Merging underfull
nodes due to delete operations is difficult to implement in a B-link tree, because it is difficult to determine
when the space used by the deleted node may be reclaimed [14, 19]. The deletemin operation has more
structure than the delete operation, so that the space used by deleted nodes can be easily reclaimed.
Reclaiming the unused space will require some additional data structures, which we describe next.
2.1 Data Structures
The essential data structure is the B-link tree, which is a B+-tree in which every node contains a pointer
to its right sibling (see figure 2). For the priority queue algorithm, we assume that the root node is a
special node which is always the root of the tree. The initial queue consists of two nodes: the root and
an empty leaf, and the root contains a pointer into the empty leaf. We assume that the root is never a
leaf, so the tree has a minimum height of two.
Each node in the B-link tree contains a set of keys, ki, k2,..., k,, a highest field, and a set of pointers,
Po,P1,P2, .. ,Pm (see figure 3). In a non-leaf node, the subtree pointed to by pi contains keys k such
that ki < k < ki+1 (where ko = -co and km+i = highest). In a leaf node, pointer pi points to the data
object with key ki. Each node also contains the pointer rightsibling, which points to the node's right
sibling (nil if the node is the rightmost). The highest field in a node indicates the value of the largest
key that might be stored in the subtree rooted at that node. If an operation navigates to a node and is
searching for a key value larger than highest, the operation can follow the link rightsibling to find
the correct subtree.
In order to make the B-link tree concurrent, each node must contain a socket for a lock queue. Each
node also contains a flag, deleted, which is set to true if the node is no longer in the priority queue, and
a counter, marks, which records the number of active inserts that have read the node (the space used
by a deleted node cannot be reclaimed until the marks counter is zero). Finally, each node will need to
store which insert operation created the node in creator.
Two more data structures are needed both lists of pointers (see figure 2). In both lists, there is
one pointer for each level in the tree. In the first list, minheadlist, each pointer in the list points to the
leftmost active (not deleted) node in a level. The pointers in minheadlist are ordered from the leaf level
to the root level. Minheadlist may be locked, which implicitly locks the leftmost leaf. The deletemin
operations use minheadlist to find the parent nodes. The other list, delheadlist is similar, except that
its pointers point to the first node in the level, deleted or active. Delheadlist is maintained so that
deleted nodes that will be accessed in the future can be kept in the data structure, but have their space
This algorithm uses four types of locks, W, Wp, Wi, and R. Table 1 summarizes their compatibility. The
W lock is the usual exclusive lock, and the R lock is the usual shared lock. A W lock can be upgraded to
a Wp lock, which is a preemptive exclusive lock. When a W lock is upgraded to a Wp lock, all processes
that have Wi (preemptable exclusive) locks relinquish their other lock to the process that placed the Wp
lock. A process that attempts to place a Wi lock on a node that is Wp-locked is preempted also. When
the Wp lock is released, the preempted operation resumes. The preempting and preemptable locks are
used to break deadlocks. In the priority queue algorithm, the deadlock can occur at only one point, so
that the Wi and Wp locks need to be implemented on only one queue (minheadlist). In order to make
the algorithm more efficient, a Wi lock has priority over all waiting W locks.
The algorithm can be implemented without using the Wi and Wp locks, but we will first present the
algorithm as using them in order to simplify the presentation.
The insert and deletemin operations use the following operations:
Table 1: Lock Compatibility Chart
1. mark, unmark, nummarks : Atomically increment, decrement and read the marks field of a node.
Mark and unmark can be implemented using the fetch-and-add operation .
2. findchild(node,v,leftmost,ischild) : Determines the next node to visit while searching for
key v. The procedure will return the address of the right sibling if v isn't in the range of node, or
if the node is deleted. Leftmost is set to false if the returned node isn't the leftmost in the node,
and ischild is true if the returned node is a child of node, false if it is the right sibling.
3. half split : Perform the operation in figure 1. In addition, child gets the address of the new
sibling, and v gets the separator key.
4. search : Release the W lock on the root, search for child in the B-link tree (using the same search
protocol as in the insert procedure), return with parents of child in pstack, and a W lock on the
parent of child.
5. makenewroot(root,v,child,newsib) : Creates two new nodes, distributes the contents of the
root among them, and also inserts v and child, creates entries in root for these 2 new nodes.
Newsib returns the leftmost of the newly created nodes.
6. addlevelptr(minheadlist,node) : Add an entry in minheadlist which points to node.
7. deleteminkey : Delete and return the smallest key in node. If the node is empty, the priority
queue is empty, so deleteminkey returns a value that indicates failure.
3 The Serialized-deletemin Algorithm
There are two priority queue procedures: insert and deletemin. The pseudo-code for these algorithms
is in the Appendix. The insert procedure starts by searching the B-link tree for the leaf into which it
must insert its key. The search phase of the insert algorithm is similar to the search phase in Sagiv's
R W Wp Wi
R yes no no no
W no no no no
Wp no no preempted no
Wi no no no no
algorithm, with the exception that all nodes are marked before they are visited. Nodes that have non-
zero values in their marks fields are left in the data structure even after being removed from the B-link
tree by the deletemin operation. Marking a node ensures that insert operations can find their paths
on two occasions. The first occasion occurs during the search phase, during which the insert operation
needs to ensure that the next node that it will lock actually exists in the data structure. A deletemin
operation must exclusively lock the parent of a node before it can delete the child, and it must delete
the left sibling of a node (and thus must place an exclusive lock on the left sibling) before it may delete
a node. So, during the time period that the insert operation holds a lock on the parent node (or the left
sibling) the child (or right sibling) must be in the data structure. Marking the child (or right sibling)
ensures that the node is still in the tree when the insert operation places a lock on the node. The second
occasion upon which marking is used is during the restructuring phase. Marks are left on the parent
nodes, ensuring that they will exist if the operation needs to find parents during restructuring. Note
that, as an optimization, the root doesn't need to be marked because it is never deleted.
After the insert operation navigates to a leaf, it will begin the restructuring phase, so it will place
W locks. After the operation has a W lock on a node, it must consider four possibilities. First, a
deletemin operation might have inserted the pointer to the child already (as will be discussed later). If
this happens, the deletemin operation will notify the insert operation that its work has been finished. If
an insert operation finds that it has been notified, the restructuring is finished, so the insert operation
releases its locks and returns. Second, the operation might have navigated to the wrong node due to
splitting or deletions. In this case, the operation follows the right sibling pointer (marking the right
sibling before releasing the lock on the node). Third, the operation might be at the correct node, and
the node is full. In this case, the operation half-splits the node, and navigates to the presumed parent.
If the parent is the root, the operation must take some special actions. If the root height has changed
(increased), the insert procedure must find prospective parents on the new levels of the B-link tree, which
is accomplished by the search procedure. If the root is full, the insert operation will have to split the root
and add another level. Adding a level to the B-link tree requires that minheadlist and delheadlist be
modified, which requires that they be exclusively locked in order to prevent interference with deletemin
operations. The insert operation places a Wi (preemptable exclusive) lock on minheadlist to prevent
deadlock. Fourth, the insert operation might be at the correct node, and the node isn't full. In this
case, the operation inserts the key and pointer, and is finished with restructuring. After completing the
restructuring, the operation unmarks all remaining marked parent nodes, and exits.
The deletemin operation begins by placing a lock on minheadlist, which also locks the leftmost
leaf, which contains the smallest key currently in the queue. The deletemin operation then deletes the
smallest key in the locked leftmost leaf. If the leaf is not empty, the deletemin operation releases its
lock and returns the key. If the leaf becomes empty, it must be removed from the data structure, so the
B-link tree needs to be restructured. The deletemin operation first locks all nodes that will be involved
in the restructuring. The leftmost node of each level (pointed to by minheadlist) is exclusively locked
progressing from the leaf level to the root level. If a node is the root, has more than one child, or contains
an outdated entry for the locked child (indicating that the locked child has an uninserted sibling), then
that node is the highest node that needs to be locked. If the root needs to be locked, the deletemin
operation upgrades the minheadlist lock to a Wp lock, in order to break any possible deadlock. After
the highest node is locked, there are three possibilities. First, the highest node might be the root, and
the deletemin operation might be attempting to delete the root's only child. In this case, the deletemin
operation releases all locks without modifying the data structure, as (we assume) the height of the B-link
tree never decreases. Second, the node might have an outdated entry for the child, which occurs if the
separator key for the child in the node is greater than the the highest field in the child. This situation
means that the child has been split but the sibling hasn't yet been inserted into the parent node. The
sibling must be inserted into the parent before the child can be deleted, because the insert operations can
only move to the right, not the left. The deletemin operation must remove the pointer to the child, insert
a pointer to the sibling, and notify the insert operation that created the sibling that the restructuring
has been performed. Third, if the first two cases don't apply, it removes the child from the node.
Once the child is deleted (or marked as deleted) from the highest locked node, the other locked
nodes are no longer reachable in the data structure, so all that remains is to perform bookkeeping on
the data structures. On each locked level, the operation marks the locked node as deleted, and shifts
the corresponding pointer in minheadlist to the right sibling. Next, it attempts to reclaim the space
occupied by the deleted nodes on that level whose marks fields are zero (which means that no operation
will access it again). The operation locks delheadlist and releases all of the other locks, so as not to
block other deletemin operations needlessly. The deleted nodes are exclusively locked from left to right
using lock coupling to ensure that insert operations can always read the marked nodes.
We first show that the algorithm is deadlock-free. Insert operations place at most one lock at a time,
except when splitting the root. When an insert operation splits the root, it must lock both the root and
minheadlist. The only time that a deadlock can occur is when a deletemin operation attempts to lock
the root. In this case, the deletemin will upgrade its lock on minlisthead to a preempting exclusive lock,
while the insert procedure placed a preemptable exclusive lock on minlisthead, so the deadlock will be
broken in favor of the deletemin operation.
We next show that a insert operation correctly inserts its key into the data structure and correctly
restructures the B-link tree. If none of the nodes involved in the insert operation are deleted while the
insert operation is active, then the insert operation is correct because it uses the same protocol as Sagiv's
algorithm . If a node that is used in the insert operation is deleted while the insert operation is active,
there are two possibilities. First, the node might be deleted before the last time that the insert operation
accesses it. In this case, the insert operation can always recover its path as discussed in section 3. If the
node is deleted after the last time that the insert operation accesses it, then the only problem occurs
when the insert operation attempts to insert a pointer to the deleted node into the node's parent. If the
insert operation is trying to insert into the parent a pointer to a deleted node, then the node's left sibling
must also have been deleted, which means that a deletemin operation has already inserted the node and
notified the insert operation. So, the insert operation detects the notification and stops.
The deletemin operations always find the smallest key that has been inserted into a leaf because
the insert operations are correct and the deletemin operations always delete the leftmost key in the
data structure. The deletemin operations restructure the tree correctly because they obtain locks on
all affected nodes before restructuring, and they ensure that the leftmost branch in the tree exists..
The deletemin operations never remove from the data structure any node that might be accessed in the
future by an insert operation. Since the deletemin operation recovers the space used by any node that
will not be read by an insert operation, the number of deleted but unrecovered nodes at any point in the
algorithm is O(I), where I is the maximum number of concurrent insert operations.
This algorithm is decisive operation serializable (The concurrent execution is equivalent to a serial
execution in which operations are ordered according to when their decisive actions occurred ). The
decisive actions of the insert and deletemin operations occurs when they actually insert a key into or
delete a key from the data structure.
3.2 Implementing Notification
We have not yet specified a method by which deletemin operations can notify insert operations that their
restructuring has been completed. In this section, we suggest three methods that do not rely on system
services, each of which may be appropriate in different situations.
The simplest method is to use a bit vector, with one bit representing a particular process that issues
insert operations. Each insert operation reads the bit that corresponds to the process that is executing
the operation when the operation starts. Whenever an operation half-splits a node, it writes its process
number in the creator field of the newly created sibling. Whenever a deletemin operation inserts a
sibling into a parent, it negates the bit that corresponds to the sibling's creator. Exery time that an
insert operation obtains a lock during the restructuring phase, it tests the bit that corresponds it its
process number. If the bit has changed, a deletemin operation has notified the insert operation that the
restructuring is finished. Since only one process writes to the bit vector at a time, and since the insert
operation that will read the bit being changed by the deletemin is blocked by the deletemin's lock on
the parent node, no synchronization needs to be performed on the bit vector. This method is simple and
efficient, but can only be used when the processes performing insert operations can be efficiently globally
numbered in advance.
A slightly more complicated method is to have the insert operations request numbers for use with
a bit vector. Only the insert operations that split a node must request a number. This method allows
an arbitrary number of different processes to perform insert operations on the queue, but requires that
they synchronize to obtain numbers, and maintain a free list so that the numbers can be reused, which
requires much more space than the bit vector.
A third method is to maintain the notifications within the priority queue. In this method, whenever
a deletemin operation inserts a sibling into a parent, it attaches a notification to the parent (using a
queue of notifications). If an insert operation finds a notification corresponding to its process number in
the parent's notification queue, it removes the notification and exits. In order to guarantee that an insert
operation finds its notification, the notification must always be in the node that is or would be the inserted
sibling's parent (so the notification must indicate the inserted sibling's key range). This requires that the
notification queue must be split whenever a node half-split. Whenever the root is split, its notification
queue must be split among the two new children. Whenever a node is deleted, the notification list
must be appended to the right sibling's notification list. This method allows arbitrary numbers of insert
operations to execute simultaneously, but at the cost of greatly complicating the implementation.
3.3 Using Read and Write Locks Only
While one can expect that the underlying system will support the common R and W locks, the Wi
and Wp lock is not likely to be provided by the system. In this case, one can either implement the
deadlock-breaking locks, or modify the algorithm so that it avoids deadlock. In this section, we describe
how the algorithm can become deadlock-avoiding at the cost of a slightly more complicated algorithm
Deadlock in the priority queue algorithm is possible because the insert operation will lock the root
and then minheadlist, while the deletemin operation locks minheadlist and then the root. In order to
break the lock, we require that the if the insert operation needs both locks simultaneously, minheadlist
is locked before the root.
We could satisfy this requirement by forcing any insert operation which locks the root to lock
minheadlist first. While this solution has the advantage of simplicity (only one if statement needed),
minheadlist would be locked (and thus the deletemin operations blocked) more often than necessary.
A higher concurrency solution is to require that any insert operation that locks the root and determines
that it needs to split the root first release the lock on the root and then lock minheadlist and the root,
in that order. In either case, the root height might have changed, but this possibility has already been
covered with the use of the search procedure. Again, in either case, the root should be split only if it is
3.4 Decreasing the Tree Height
As stated, the height of the priority queue never decreases. This is probably not a serious problem
in practice, since creating a height h tree requires an exponentially large number of insert operations.
However, a priority queue might start out large, then shrink to some much smaller size and remain stable
at that size, so that a priority queue that can't decrease in height will cause considerable wasted work.
The algorithm can be modified so that the tree will shrink, at the cost of a slightly more complicated
When the result of a deletemin operation is a root with one child and a height greater than two, the
tree can be shrunk by copying the contents of the child of the root into the root. The remaining child of
the root is the right sibling of the deleted child, and must be W-locked so that it can be removed from
the tree. If the remaining child has a non-null right sibling, then it has been split and there is another
child of the root. In that case, insert the right sibling into the root, and notify the insert operation
that created it. Otherwise, copy the contents of the remaining child into the root and mark the child as
We must now ensure that insert operations that navigate to a deleted level (whether during the
search or restructuring phase) can find their way back into the tree. Navigation to a deleted level will
be detected when the insert operation attempts to navigate to a right sibling and finds that the pointer
is null. In this case, the operation must renavigate starting from the root.
In order to reclaim the memory used by the nodes on the deleleted level, the chain of nodes pointed to
by the level's entry in delheadlist should become an entry in a data structure similar to delheadlist,
deletedlevellist. This data structure must be searched (as delheadlist is) in order to return unmarked
nodes to free memory.
If the third option for notification is used (keeping the notifications in the tree), then the notification
list of the the child should be appended to the root's list.
4 The Concurrent-Deletemin Algorithm
A priority queue algorithm that allows concurrent deletemin operations can be implemented if the fetch-
and-add operation  is available. The idea is that deletemin operations can concurrently perform a
fetch-and-add on the number of remaining items in the leftmost node. Each deletemin operation receives
a different number which corresponds to the item in the leftmost node which it returns. Up to m
deletemin operations can execute concurrently by using this scheme (where m is the maximum number
of keys that can be stored in a node).
A simple modification of the serial-deletemin algorithm is to remove the leftmost leaf from the tree
and store it in a block that only the deletemin operations can access. A deletemin operation performs
a fetch-and-decrement (fetch-and-add with an argument of -1) on the shared variable numleft. If the
returned value is greater then zero, the key to remove from the block is given by the original number
of keys in the block minus the value returned by the fetch-and-decrement. If the fetch-and-decrement
returns 0, then the deletemin operation is the first to discover that the node is empty, so it is responsible
for removing the current leftmode leaf from the tree and copying it into the block. The last action of
this deletemin operation is to set numleft to the number of keys in the removed node. If the fetch-and-
decrement instruction returns a negative value, the block is empty and the deletemin operation must try
This implementation is simple and efficient, but it has the problem that it is can produce executions
that aren't strict serializable  -that is, it is possible for that an insert operation I finishes before
deletemin operation D starts, I inserts kj, D deletes kD, ki < kD, and kj is still in the priority queue when
D finishes. The non-strict serializable implementation may be acceptable, especially if there is a high rate
of deletemin operations and inserts into the leftmost leaf are rare (i.e., keys of the insert operations tend
to increase), but some applications might require a strict serializable or a decisive operation serializable
 priority queue.
We next present a decisive operation serializable (and thus a strict serializable) concurrent-deletemin
priority queue. In order to be decisive operation serializable, after an insert puts its key into the tree
(i.e. performs its decisive operation), all deletemin operations whose decisive operations follow must be
able to delete this key. Therefore, insert operations must be able to insert into the block that the delete
operations delete from.
In the decisive operation serializable priority queue, there is now a separate lock for minheadlist and
for the leftmost block in the tree. A deletemin operation places an R lock on minheadlist and reads
the pointer to the leftmost leaf. The deletemin operation then marks the leafmost leaf, releases the lock
on minheadlist, and R-locks the leftmost leaf. If the leftmost leaf isn't deleted, the deletemin operation
performs a fetch-and-decrement on numleft. If the returned value is positive, the deletemin deletes a key,
releases the lock, and unmarks the node. If the value returned by the fetch-and-decrement is negative,
the operation releases the lock, unmarks the node, and waits until the leftmost node is removed from the
tree, which the operation can detect by monitoring the pointer to the leftmost node. When this pointer
changes, the operation starts again. If the returned value is zero, then the operation is responsible for
removing the empty leaf and finding the next leftmost leaf. This operation releases its lock, places a W
lock on minheadlist and the leftmost leaf, then proceeds as in the serialized-deletemin algorithm.
When an insert operation needs to insert its key into the leftmost leaf, it places a W lock on the
leftmost leaf. If the insert operation finds the that the leftmost leaf isn't empty, it inserts its key and
modifies the value of numleft and of the field of the node that holds the number of keys in the node, and
possibly half-splits the node. Otherwise, the insert operation follows the right sibling pointer.
5 Analysis and Comparisons
In this section, we will analyze the maximum throughput of the serialized-deletemin and the concurrent-
deletemin algorithms and use the analysis to compare them to the existing concurrent priority queue
In order to analyze the algorithms, we need to make some assumptions about the workload offered to
the algorithms. First, we assume that the keys of the insert operations tend to increase This assumption
holds for many applications, such as discrete event simulators, and is the working assumption made
when empirically comparing priority queue algorithms [11, 13]. Second, we assume that the rate of insert
operations is equal to the rate of deletemin operations, so that the size of the priority queue is stable.
5.1 Analysis of the Serialized-deletemin Algorithm
In order to analyze the algorithms, we need to characterize the data structure. Baeza-Yates  has
shown that the expected utilization of a B+-tree is 69% if the tree is created from a sequence of random
insertions. Since the deletemin operations delete from only one node at a time, we will assume that the
expected space utilization of the nodes in the tree (except for the leftmost leaf) is 69%.
We first consider the insert operations. Since we assume that the keys of the insert operations tend to
increase, there is little interference between the insert operations and the deletemin operations. Therefore,
it is primarily insert operations that block other insert operations. The insert operations follow the Sagiv's
protocol, which Johnson and Shasha have shown results in very little interference [10, 9]. Since we assume
that the rate of the insert operations equals the rate of the deletemin operations, the throughput of the
priority queue will be limited by the maximum rate at which deletemin operations can be processed.
In the serialized-deletemin priority queue, the deletemin operations locks minheadlist (and thus im-
plicitly the leftmost leaf), and if the leftmost leaf has more than one key in it, finishes and releases its
lock. If the deletemin operation deletes the last key in the leftmost leaf, it locks the parent and removes
the pointer to the child. If the parent now becomes empty, the grandparent must be locked, and so on.
Let us denote the time to (successfully) lock minheadlist, delete the smallest key, and release the lock
by D. Let us denote the additional time to restructure one level of the tree by R. Let M represent the
maximum number of keys that can be stored in a node, and let E = .69M. Let TD be the expected time
to execute a deletemin operation
Since we've assumed that insert operations rarely conflict with deletemin operations, the limiting
source of blocking is between deletemin operations. Since the deletemin operations are (almost) serialized,
the maximum throughput of the deletemin operations is the inverse of their expected service time. Every
deletemin operation requires D seconds. If the leaf has only one key in it, an additional R seconds are
required. Since inserts rarely insert into the leftmost leaf, this happens once every E deletemin operations.
If the leftmost leaf must be removed, the parent might also become empty, and we'll assume that again
this happens once every E deletions from the parent of the leftmost leaf. Continuing this way for a tree
of arbitrary height we find that
D +R/(E 1)
Therefore, the throughput of the serialized-deletemin is approximately 2/D.
5.2 Analysis of the Concurrent-Deletemin Priority Queue
For this analysis, we will make the same assumptions as for the serialized-deletemin queue. So, again
the emphasis is on determining the throughput of the deletemin operations, and in particular the service
time of the serializing operation.
In the concurrent-deletemin queue, the deletemin operations work in parallel as long as there is a key
to delete from the leftmost leaf. So, the deletemin operations are serialized by the deletemin operations
which are responsible for restructuring the tree.
Let S be the time required to place a R lock and read a variable. The time to execute a deletemin
operation that restructures the tree is the time to R-lock and read minheadlist (S), R-lock and delete a
key from the leftmost leaf (D), W-lock minheadlist and the leftmost leaf (L1 + L2), and restructure the
tree (ER/(E 1)). All of these times are known except for L1 and L2, which are the times to place a W
lock on a node given that there is a stream on R locks being placed on the node and no other W locks
are being placed. This type of queue is analyzed in , where it is shown that
L w (ln(AR/pR) + 7)/pR
where L is the time to place a W lock, 7 ,;-'l is Euler's constant, R locks arrive at rate AR and are
served at rate pR. In this case, AR = A, the rate at which deletemin operations arrive, and 1/LR = S.
L1 + L2 = 2S(ln(SA) + 7))
Td M S + D + ER/(E 1) + 2S(ln(SA) + 7)
The maximum rate at which deletemin operations can be served is bound by the rate at which
restructuring deletemin operations arrive so that they are always executing. One of every E deletemin
operations restructures the tree, so A is bound by the solution of
(S + D + ER/(E 1) + 2S(ln(SA) + 7))A/E = 1
Since A is certainly less than E/S + D + ER/(E 1) + 2S7, we can conclude that
Therefore, the throughput of the concurrent-deletemin priority queue is approximately 2E/(D + R).
Both the serialized-deletemin and the concurrent-deletemin B-link tree based concurrent priority queue
algorithms are superior to the shared memory priority queue algorithms that have appeared in the
literature to date. Fan and Cheng's algorithm  can provide better performance, but it is a synchronous
VLSI implementation, so it isn't directly comparable.
The Biswas-Browne priority queue algorithm  serializes deletemin operations at the root, and
requires that during the serialization period, three locks be placed (including one on the root) and that
the root restructured on every deletemin operation. The Rao-Kumar algorithm  (improved upon by
Anani ) serializes both inserts and deletemins at the root, requires that four locks be placed (including
one on the root), and that the root be restructured on every deletemin operation. Jones' algorithm 
serializes insert and deletemin operations at the root, and requires that the deletemin operations place
two locks, including one on the root, and and that the root be restructured.
All of the above algorithms allow many deletemin operations to be active in the queue concurrently.
Our serialized-deletemin algorithm, by contrast, allows at most two (and usually one) deletemin oper-
ation to be active at any given time. However, concurrent data structures should not be measured by
their concurrency, instead they should be measured by their throughput and response times. By these
measures, the serialized-deletemin algorithm is superior than previous shared memory algorithms.
The serialized-deletemin algorithm will have a higher maximum throughput for the deletemin opera-
tions than previous algorithms because the serialization period is shorter: For E 1 out of E deletemin
operations, only one lock needs to be placed (which, like the other algorithms, is equivalent to a semaphore
or a busy-wait), and no restructuring needs to be performed (it can be left for the insert operations).
For E 1 out of E of the remaining deletemin operations, only 2 locks need to be placed, and only one
node needs to be restructured, and so on. On average, less time is required to complete the serializing
work. Further, there is little contention between the insert and deletemin operations, whereas three of
the four of the previously proposed algorithms serialize insert operations on the root, and in the fourth
(Biswas-Browne) insert and deletemin operations serialize on the last node in the tree. The serialized-
deletemin algorithm will also have a higher maximum throughput for the insert operations, because the
insert operations will have little conflict with each other or with the deletemin operations (as previously
discussed), whereas in three out of four of the previous algorithms, insert operations serialize at the root,
and in the fourth (Biswas-Browne), conflict is likely near the leaves.
We have established that the serialized deletemin algorithm will cause fewer serialization delays than
the algorithms previously discussed. The serialized-delete algorithm will have a faster response time
even in the absence of contention, because far less locking is required. Even for relatively small nodes
(say, E = 10), a relatively large tree will be short (10,000 items will require 4 levels), so that only a
few locks need to be placed. Also, the insert operations will rarely need to restructure the tree, and
most deletemin operations will be very fast. Thus, the proposed algorithms are more efficient than those
The concurrent-deletemin algorithm will allow an even higher maximum throughput for the deletemin
operations than the serialized-deletemin algorithm. Since the maximum throughput of the deletemin
operations is proportional to the E, this algorithm has the property that the data structure can be
modified to allow a higher throughput. If a series of problems is presented that requires the processing of
more data, so that the expected size of the priority queue is larger, the average node size can be increased
in order to allow more parallelism. For example, E can grow as IPQI1/4 (where IPQ| is the expected size
of the queue) and still maintain a tree of height 4.
5.4 Node Size
As can be seen from the previous discussion, the performance of the proposed algorithms tends to increase
as the node size increases. This trend can't continue indefinitely, since if a single node can contain the
entire queue, the algorithm reduces to maintaining a sorted list. The nodes should be small enough that
many are required to store the queue, so that the insert operations will be hashed out among them. For a
rule of thumb, plan on a four level tree, so set E = IPQ|1/4, or a node size of M = E/.69 = IPQI1/4/.69.
We have presented a highly concurrent priority queue based on the B-link tree. In it, a large number of
insert operations can execute concurrently with a deletemin operation and with little or no interference
between operations. We discussed two algorithms for implementing the deletemin operation. In the first
algorithm, deletemin operations are serialized with respect to each other, but most deletemin operations
finish very quickly. The second deletemin algorithm uses the fetch-and-add instruction to allow up to
M deletemin operations to execute concurrently, where M is the maximum number of keys that can be
stored in a node.
An analysis of the algorithms shows that they are interesting for both theoretical and pragmatic
reasons. Of theoretical interest is the fact that the concurrent-deletemin algorithm is the first shared
memory priority queue algorithm that allows completely concurrent execution of at least some of the
deletemin operations -all previous shared memory algorithms serialized the deletemin operations by
contention for the root of the tree. The algorithms are also of pragmatic interest, because they require far
less locking and restructuring that previously proposed algorithms, which shows that even the serialized-
deletemin algorithm will have higher performance (measured by response time or maximum throughput)
than the previously proposed algorithms.
I'd like to thank Dennis Shasha for his helpful comments concerning concurrent priority queues.
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insert(v : key)
initialize(pstack) /*create empty stack of parents*/
localheight=heightof(root) /* record the current root height */
push(node,pstack) /* record the root as a parent */
while not isleaf(child) do
push(node,pstack) /*record the node as a parent for restructuring */
node=child; child=nil; continue=true
if(notified()) /*Has the insert already been performed? */
elseif(isdeleted(node) or not inrange(node,v)) /*need to go to right sibling*/
unlock(node,leftmost) /*unlocks minlisthead if node is the leftmost child
if(node==root and localheight<>heightof(root))
search(child,pstack,node) /*if the root height changed, find more parents */
while(not isempty(pstack)) /*unmark remaining ...... .. -'/
deletemin() : key
minhead=headof(minheadlist) /*get first entry on minheadlist (points to leftmost leaf/*
if(sizeof(minhead->node)==0) /*if node became empty, need to restructure */
minhead=next(minhead) /* get the next entry on minheadlist*/
while(sizeof(node)==1 and and node<>root and not missingsibling(node,child))do
if(node==root and sizeof(root)==l)
release all locks
while mintemp->node<>node do
release all other locks
Figure 1: The half-split operation
Figure 2: Priority queue data structures
deleted marks lock queue creator rightsiblin
P1 k1 P2 k2 km- Pm highest
I _ _ _ I
Figure 3: Tree node data structure