RFC-0142: zx_thread_legacy_yield

RFC-0142: zx_thread_legacy_yield
  • Kernel

Introduces a specialized syscall for yield.

Gerrit change
Date submitted (year-month-day)2021-11-29
Date reviewed (year-month-day)2021-10-13


We propose adding a new syscall zx_thread_legacy_yield , that causes the calling thread to yield the cpu to another waiting thread. Additionally, we would remove the special case of zx_nanosleep when the deadline is equal to zero. The legacy in the syscall's name exists as an indication of the availability of more suitable mechanisms to achieve the desired behavior.


The behavior of zx_nanosleep deviates from how deadlines are treated in all other syscalls, that is if the deadline is before the current time, then it returns immediately. Currently, this is a special case where a deadline value of zero means yield.

Furthermore, it is impossible to determine at runtime, whether the deadline was intentionally set to zero or was the result of a calculation. This would simplify how zx_nanosleep works, reducing the special cases a developer needs to be aware of. A deadline can be manually set to zero, in order to cause the thread to yield, while it can also be zero as the result of the next wake up (which means to continue right now).


Who has a stake in whether this RFC is accepted? (This section is optional but encouraged.)


The person appointed by FEC to shepherd this RFC through the RFC process.



Socialization: The design was initially discussed in a design doc.


This proposal consist of the following changes to the Zircon syscall API:

  1. Addition of zx_thread_legacy_yield
  2. Simplification of zx_nanosleep

Where zx_thread_legacy_yield is defined as:

/// Yields cpu to another waiting thread.
/// `options`: Reserved for future extension. Must be zero.
/// @blocking
zx_status_t zx_thread_legacy_yield(uint32_t options);

When zx_thread_legacy_yield is called on a user space application, the calling thread yields the cpu. The options parameter could be used to introduce hints later.

Calling zx_thread_legacy_yield with options equal to zero is guaranteed to return ZX_OK.

When zx_nanosleep is called with a deadline that is greater than the time in the monotonic clock, then calling thread is put to sleep until the deadline (plus slack) is met. On the other hand, when the deadline has a value equal or prior to the time in the monotonic clock, then it returns immediately. But if the deadline is zero, it will cause the calling thread to yield. After introducing zx_thread_legacy_yield the goal is to remove the special handling of zero deadlines.

Additionally, the syscalls_zx_nanosleep_zero_duration kernel counter must be removed, while syscalls_zx_thread_legacy_yield counter is introduced.


zx_nanosleep(0) has 2 callsites(which provide an implementation of sched_yield) outside the fuchsia tree, and 7 callsites in-tree. Which involves splitting the work in four CLs.

  1. Introduce new syscall zx_thread_legacy_yield.
  2. Migrate in-tree users to zx_thread_legacy_yield.
  3. Migrate out of tree users.
  4. Remove yield overload from zx_nanosleep.

CL (1) will include documentation, language binding updates, and CL (4) will update the documentation as well. (1) and (2) could be merged into a single CL, but separating implementation from migration seems like a cleaner path.


There is no known impact on performance, other than a slight improvement in zx_nanosleep path, since a branch is removed.

Backwards Compatibility

The users of zx_nanosleep(0) are not limited to the stem repository.

Security considerations

The behavior of the existing code and the new code will be exactly the same, since zx_nanosleep(0) (now) is equivalent to zx_thread_legacy_yield(0). In order to prevent any security issues from arising, zx_nanosleep will remain unchanged until all use cases of zx_nanosleep(0) have been migrated to zx_thread_legacy_yield(0).

Privacy considerations

This proposal has no impact on privacy.


The nature of zx_thread_legacy_yield makes it hard to test reliably, but at the very least we can verify that the return codes match the expectations.


We will add additional documentation for zx_thread_legacy_yield and update the entry for zx_nanosleep to remove the mention of zero deadline being a special case.

Drawbacks, alternatives, and unknowns

The biggest drawback and concern is the existence of zx_thread_legacy_yield encouranging busy waits patterns, but sched_yield provides this mechanism already. These concerns can be mitigated through proper documentation and best practices. Since the target users of this syscall are drivers, any other usage should be looked at carefully.

Another alternative that was considered was changing the magic value to another (e.g. INT_MIN ). This would indeed address the calculated deadline problem, while still leaving a special case. This alternative would require updating out of tree user as well, which is why it requires the same effort as adding a new syscall. The biggest drawback is that doing so, will leave zx_nanosleep deadline handling being special from another operations that deal with deadlines, such as zx_object_wait .

Prior art and references

  • zx_nanosleep uses 0 as a special value, to indicate "yield". The problem is that there is code that effectively does a deadline calculation which can compute 0, in this case the intention is not to yield, quite the opposite: execute the next statement "now".

  • Code with yield is usually an indication of something done wrong. Unfortunately it is not uncommon to see it in drivers whose hardware lacks the proper signaling mode.