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6. Concurrency

Concurrency exists as either apparent concurrency or real concurrency. In a single processor environment, apparent concurrency is the result of interleaved execution of concurrent activities. In a multiprocessor environment, real concurrency is the result of overlapped execution of concurrent activities.

Concurrent programming is more difficult and error prone than sequential programming. The concurrent programming features of Ada are designed to make it easier to write and maintain concurrent programs that behave consistently and predictably and avoid such problems as deadlock and starvation. The language features themselves cannot guarantee that programs have these desirable properties. They must be used with discipline and care, a process supported by the guidelines in this chapter.

The correct usage of Ada concurrency features results in reliable, reusable, and portable software. Protected objects (added in Ada 95) encapsulate and provide synchronized access to their private data (Rationale 1995, §II.9). Protected objects help you manage shared data without incurring a performance penalty. Tasks model concurrent activities and use the rendezvous to synchronize between cooperating concurrent tasks. Much of the synchronization required between tasks involves data synchronization, which can be accomplished most efficiently, in general, using protected objects. Misuse of language features results in software that is unverifiable and difficult to reuse or port. For example, using task priorities or delays to manage synchronization is not portable. It is also important that a reusable component not make assumptions about the order or speed of task execution (i.e., about the compiler's tasking implementation).

Although concurrent features such as tasks and protected objects are supported by the core Ada language, care should be taken when using these features with implementations that do not specifically support Annex D (Real-Time Systems). If Annex D is not specifically supported, features required for real-time applications might not be implemented.

Guidelines in this chapter are frequently worded "consider . . ." because hard and fast rules cannot apply in all situations. The specific choice you make in a given situation involves design tradeoffs. The rationale for these guidelines is intended to give you insight into some of these tradeoffs.