# Chapel's Use of Allocators¶

The Chapel runtime will select an allocator according to the CHPL_MEM environment variable. See Setting up Your Environment for Chapel for details on how that works. The default is usually the system allocator (ie malloc/free as supported by the C compiler and runtime) but some configurations use a different allocator in order to get all of memory allocated by Chapel on to a network registered heap. Using the registered heap can improve communication performance, but having two allocators can create interoperability challenges:

• memory allocated by one allocator cannot be freed by another
• the Chapel heap might pre-allocate a significant amount of memory. In this situation, programs might run out of memory if there are too many allocations in the system heap.
• memory allocated by the Chapel allocator will generally have better performance when communication occurs

This file describes two strategies for overcoming these challenges.

Note that both of these strategies will only allow C code to use the allocator that the Chapel runtime is providing. In particular, while a Chapel program might be able to allocate memory on a hardware provided memory region, these methods will only work with system memory.

## Calling Chapel Allocation Functions Directly¶

You can call Chapel allocation functions directly from an extern block or from C code that is built with the proper -I paths for the Chapel runtime.

The command:

\$CHPL_HOME/util/config/compileline --includes-and-defines


should produce the necessary -I and -D options so that you can compile a .c file to a .o file for linking with the Chapel runtime. Note that these include paths are already handled for extern blocks.

For example, here is a Chapel program that uses the Chapel allocator from C:

extern {
#include "chpl-mem.h"
static int64_t* mymalloc(void) {
int64_t *ret = (int64_t*) chpl_malloc(1024);
ret[0] = 5;
return ret;
}
static void myfree(int64_t *x) {
chpl_free(x);
}
}

var x = mymalloc();

writeln(x.deref());

myfree(x);


The Chapel runtime includes chpl_calloc, chpl_malloc, chpl_memalign, chpl_realloc, chpl_free, chpl_posix_memalign, chpl_valloc, and chpl_pvalloc. These routines take in exactly the same arguments as the C library versions.

## Replacing the System Allocator¶

In some cases, it may not be possible to modify C code that you would like to allocate. At the same time, some C libraries allow their allocation functions to be replaced. The manner in which the allocation functions can be replaced is very platform specific. Because the GNU C library is common in the environments that Chapel targets, we have provided a library which replaces the C library functions with the Chapel allocator. It works by defining malloc, free, etc because these are normally defined as weak symbols in the GNU C library. This feature should be considered a demonstration. It is highly platform-specific and will not work on all platforms! For this reason, we recommend instead calling the Chapel versions of the allocation routines (such as chpl_malloc) if allocation interoperability is required.

The following command will compile a Chapel program while replacing the C allocation functions:

chpl myprogram.chpl -lchplmalloc

extern {
#include <stdlib.h>
static int64_t* mymalloc(void) {
// If this pointer is to be freed by the Chapel free function,
// it's much better to use chpl_malloc instead!
int64_t *ret = (int64_t*) malloc(1024);
ret[0] = 5;
return ret;
}
}

// SysBasic provides c_calloc and c_free to call the Chapel allocator
// directly for C interoperability purposes
use SysBasic;

// Allocate using the system allocator (malloc)
var x = mymalloc();

writeln(x.deref());

// Free using the Chapel allocator - c_free calls the Chapel free function
// directly. It's named c_free because it's meant to be used for C
// interoperability purposes.
// This will generally cause a core dump unless:
//   * you have configured Chapel to use the system allocator, or
//   * you link this program with -lchplmalloc
c_free(x);