In computing, a process is the instance of a computer program that is being executed by one or many threads. It contains the program code and its activity. Depending on the operating system (OS), a process may be made up of multiple threads of execution that execute instructions concurrently.
In object-oriented programming (OOP), an instance is a concrete occurrence of any object, existing usually during the runtime of a computer program. Formally, "instance" is synonymous with "object" as they are each a particular value (realization), and these may be called an instance object; "instance" emphasizes the distinct identity of the object. The creation of an instance is called instantiation. The term "Instance" can also refer, in a non object oriented manner, to any program that is executing. Eg., the executing process in an instance of the program.
A computer program is a collection of instructions that performs a specific task when executed by a computer. Most computer devices require programs to function properly.
An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common services for computer programs.
While a computer program is a passive collection of instructions, a process is the actual execution of those instructions. Several processes may be associated with the same program; for example, opening up several instances of the same program often results in more than one process being executed.
Multitasking is a method to allow multiple processes to share processors (CPUs) and other system resources. Each CPU (core) executes a single task at a time. However, multitasking allows each processor to switch between tasks that are being executed without having to wait for each task to finish. Depending on the operating system implementation, switches could be performed when tasks perform input/output operations, when a task indicates that it can be switched, or on hardware interrupts.
In computing, multitasking is the concurrent execution of multiple tasks over a certain period of time. New tasks can interrupt already started ones before they finish, instead of waiting for them to end. As a result, a computer executes segments of multiple tasks in an interleaved manner, while the tasks share common processing resources such as central processing units (CPUs) and main memory. Multitasking automatically interrupts the running program, saving its state and loading the saved state of another program and transferring control to it. This "context switch" may be initiated at fixed time intervals, or the running program may be coded to signal to the supervisory software when it can be interrupted.
A central processing unit (CPU), also called a central processor or main processor, is the electronic circuitry within a computer that carries out the instructions of a computer program by performing the basic arithmetic, logic, controlling, and input/output (I/O) operations specified by the instructions. The computer industry has used the term "central processing unit" at least since the early 1960s. Traditionally, the term "CPU" refers to a processor, more specifically to its processing unit and control unit (CU), distinguishing these core elements of a computer from external components such as main memory and I/O circuitry.
In computing, a task is a unit of execution or a unit of work. The term is ambiguous; precise alternative terms include process, light-weight process, thread, step, request, or query. In the adjacent diagram, there are queues of incoming work to do and outgoing completed work, and a thread pool of threads to perform this work. Either the work units themselves or the threads that perform the work can be referred to as "tasks", and these can be referred to respectively as requests/responses/threads, incoming tasks/completed tasks/threads, or requests/responses/tasks.
A common form of multitasking is time-sharing. Time-sharing is a method to allow high responsiveness for interactive user applications. In time-sharing systems, context switches are performed rapidly, which makes it seem like multiple processes are being executed simultaneously on the same processor. This seeming execution of multiple processes simultaneously is called concurrency.
In computing, time-sharing is the sharing of a computing resource among many users by means of multiprogramming and multi-tasking at the same time.
In computing, a context switch is the process of storing the state of a process or of a thread, so that it can be restored and execution resumed from the same point later. This allows multiple processes to share a single CPU, and is an essential feature of a multitasking operating system.
In computer science, concurrency is the ability of different parts or units of a program, algorithm, or problem to be executed out-of-order or in partial order, without affecting the final outcome. This allows for parallel execution of the concurrent units, which can significantly improve overall speed of the execution in multi-processor and multi-core systems. In more technical terms, concurrency refers to the decomposability property of a program, algorithm, or problem into order-independent or partially-ordered components or units.
For security and reliability, most modern operating systems prevent direct communication between independent processes, providing strictly mediated and controlled inter-process communication functionality.
In computer science, inter-process communication or interprocess communication (IPC) refers specifically to the mechanisms an operating system provides to allow the processes to manage shared data. Typically, applications can use IPC, categorized as clients and servers, where the client requests data and the server responds to client requests. Many applications are both clients and servers, as commonly seen in distributed computing. Methods for doing IPC are divided into categories which vary based on software requirements, such as performance and modularity requirements, and system circumstances, such as network bandwidth and latency.
In general, a computer system process consists of (or is said to own) the following resources:
Machine code is a computer program written in machine language instructions that can be executed directly by a computer's central processing unit (CPU). Each instruction causes the CPU to perform a very specific task, such as a load, a store, a jump, or an ALU operation on one or more units of data in CPU registers or memory.
In computing, virtual memory is a memory management technique that provides an "idealized abstraction of the storage resources that are actually available on a given machine" which "creates the illusion to users of a very large (main) memory."
In computer science, a call stack is a stack data structure that stores information about the active subroutines of a computer program. This kind of stack is also known as an execution stack, program stack, control stack, run-time stack, or machine stack, and is often shortened to just "the stack". Although maintenance of the call stack is important for the proper functioning of most software, the details are normally hidden and automatic in high-level programming languages. Many computer instruction sets provide special instructions for manipulating stacks.
The operating system holds most of this information about active processes in data structures called process control blocks. Any subset of the resources, typically at least the processor state, may be associated with each of the process' threads in operating systems that support threads or child processes.
The operating system keeps its processes separate and allocates the resources they need, so that they are less likely to interfere with each other and cause system failures (e.g., deadlock or thrashing). The operating system may also provide mechanisms for inter-process communication to enable processes to interact in safe and predictable ways.
A multitasking operating system may just switch between processes to give the appearance of many processes executing simultaneously (that is, in parallel), though in fact only one process can be executing at any one time on a single CPU (unless the CPU has multiple cores, then multithreading or other similar technologies can be used).
It is usual to associate a single process with a main program, and child processes with any spin-off, parallel processes, which behave like asynchronous subroutines. A process is said to own resources, of which an image of its program (in memory) is one such resource. However, in multiprocessing systems many processes may run off of, or share, the same reentrant program at the same location in memory, but each process is said to own its own image of the program.
Processes are often called "tasks" in embedded operating systems. The sense of "process" (or task) is "something that takes up time", as opposed to "memory", which is "something that takes up space".
The above description applies to both processes managed by an operating system, and processes as defined by process calculi.
If a process requests something for which it must wait, it will be blocked. When the process is in the blocked state, it is eligible for swapping to disk, but this is transparent in a virtual memory system, where regions of a process's memory may be really on disk and not in main memory at any time. Note that even portions of active processes/tasks (executing programs) are eligible for swapping to disk, if the portions have not been used recently. Not all parts of an executing program and its data have to be in physical memory for the associated process to be active.
An operating system kernel that allows multitasking needs processes to have certain states. Names for these states are not standardised, but they have similar functionality.
When processes communicate with each other it is called "Inter-process communication" (IPC). Processes frequently need to communicate, for instance in a shell pipeline, the output of the first process need to pass to the second one, and so on to the other process. It is preferred in a well-structured way not using interrupts.
It is even possible for the two processes to be running on different machines. The operating system (OS) may differ from one process to the other, therefore some mediator(s) (called protocols) are needed.
By the early 1960s, computer control software had evolved from monitor control software, for example IBSYS, to executive control software. Over time, computers got faster while computer time was still neither cheap nor fully utilized; such an environment made multiprogramming possible and necessary. Multiprogramming means that several programs run concurrently. At first, more than one program ran on a single processor, as a result of underlying uniprocessor computer architecture, and they shared scarce and limited hardware resources; consequently, the concurrency was of a serial nature. On later systems with multiple processors, multiple programs may run concurrently in parallel .
Programs consist of sequences of instructions for processors. A single processor can run only one instruction at a time: it is impossible to run more programs at the same time. A program might need some resource, such as an input device, which has a large delay, or a program might start some slow operation, such as sending output to a printer. This would lead to processor being "idle" (unused). To keep the processor busy at all times, the execution of such a program is halted and the operating system switches the processor to run another program. To the user, it will appear that the programs run at the same time (hence the term "parallel").
Shortly thereafter, the notion of a "program" was expanded to the notion of an "executing program and its context". The concept of a process was born, which also became necessary with the invention of re-entrant code. Threads came somewhat later. However, with the advent of concepts such as time-sharing, computer networks, and multiple-CPU shared memory computers, the old "multiprogramming" gave way to true multitasking, multiprocessing and, later, multithreading.
A real-time operating system (RTOS) is an operating system (OS) intended to serve real-time applications that process data as it comes in, typically without buffer delays. Processing time requirements are measured in tenths of seconds or shorter increments of time. A real-time system is a time bound system which has well defined fixed time constraints. Processing must be done within the defined constraints or the system will fail. They either are event driven or time sharing. Event driven systems switch between tasks based on their priorities while time sharing systems switch the task based on clock interrupts. Most RTOSs use a pre-emptive scheduling algorithm.
In computer science, a thread of execution is the smallest sequence of programmed instructions that can be managed independently by a scheduler, which is typically a part of the operating system. The implementation of threads and processes differs between operating systems, but in most cases a thread is a component of a process. Multiple threads can exist within one process, executing concurrently and sharing resources such as memory, while different processes do not share these resources. In particular, the threads of a process share its executable code and the values of its dynamically allocated variables and non-thread-local global variables at any given time.
Multiprocessing is the use of two or more central processing units (CPUs) within a single computer system. The term also refers to the ability of a system to support more than one processor or the ability to allocate tasks between them. There are many variations on this basic theme, and the definition of multiprocessing can vary with context, mostly as a function of how CPUs are defined.
Parallel computing is a type of computation in which many calculations or the execution of processes are carried out simultaneously. Large problems can often be divided into smaller ones, which can then be solved at the same time. There are several different forms of parallel computing: bit-level, instruction-level, data, and task parallelism. Parallelism has long been employed in high-performance computing, but it's gaining broader interest due to the physical constraints preventing frequency scaling. As power consumption by computers has become a concern in recent years, parallel computing has become the dominant paradigm in computer architecture, mainly in the form of multi-core processors.
Flynn's taxonomy is a classification of computer architectures, proposed by Michael J. Flynn in 1966. The classification system has stuck, and has been used as a tool in design of modern processors and their functionalities. Since the rise of multiprocessing central processing units (CPUs), a multiprogramming context has evolved as an extension of the classification system.
In computing, scheduling is the method by which work is assigned to resources that complete the work. The work may be virtual computation elements such as threads, processes or data flows, which are in turn scheduled onto hardware resources such as processors, network links or expansion cards.
Simultaneous multithreading (SMT) is a technique for improving the overall efficiency of superscalar CPUs with hardware multithreading. SMT permits multiple independent threads of execution to better utilize the resources provided by modern processor architectures.
In computer science, the test-and-set instruction is an instruction used to write 1 (set) to a memory location and return its old value as a single atomic operation. If multiple processes may access the same memory location, and if a process is currently performing a test-and-set, no other process may begin another test-and-set until the first process's test-and-set is finished. A CPU may use a test-and-set instruction offered by another electronic component, such as dual-port RAM; a CPU itself may also offer a test-and-set instruction.
In concurrent programming, concurrent accesses to shared resources can lead to unexpected or erroneous behavior, so parts of the program where the shared resource is accessed need to be protected in ways that avoid the concurrent access. This protected section is the critical section or critical region. It cannot be executed by more than one process at a time. Typically, the critical section accesses a shared resource, such as a data structure, a peripheral device, or a network connection, that would not operate correctly in the context of multiple concurrent accesses.
A barrel processor is a CPU that switches between threads of execution on every cycle. This CPU design technique is also known as "interleaved" or "fine-grained" temporal multithreading. Unlike simultaneous multithreading in modern superscalar architectures, it generally does not allow execution of multiple instructions in one cycle.
In computer engineering, microarchitecture, also called computer organization and sometimes abbreviated as µarch or uarch, is the way a given instruction set architecture (ISA) is implemented in a particular processor. A given ISA may be implemented with different microarchitectures; implementations may vary due to different goals of a given design or due to shifts in technology.
In computing, preemption is the act of temporarily interrupting a task being carried out by a computer system, without requiring its cooperation, and with the intention of resuming the task at a later time. Such changes of the executed task are known as context switches. It is normally carried out by a privileged task or part of the system known as a preemptive scheduler, which has the power to preempt, or interrupt, and later resume, other tasks in the system.
Concurrent computing is a form of computing in which several computations are executed during overlapping time periods—concurrently—instead of sequentially. This is a property of a system—this may be an individual program, a computer, or a network—and there is a separate execution point or "thread of control" for each computation ("process"). A concurrent system is one where a computation can advance without waiting for all other computations to complete.
Task parallelism is a form of parallelization of computer code across multiple processors in parallel computing environments. Task parallelism focuses on distributing tasks—concurrently performed by processes or threads—across different processors. In contrast to data parallelism which involves running the same task on different components of data, task parallelism is distinguished by running many different tasks at the same time on the same data. A common type of task parallelism is pipelining which consists of moving a single set of data through a series of separate tasks where each task can execute independently of the others.
In computer architecture, multithreading is the ability of a central processing unit (CPU) to provide multiple threads of execution concurrently, supported by the operating system. This approach differs from multiprocessing. In a multithreaded application, the threads share the resources of a single or multiple cores, which include the computing units, the CPU caches, and the translation lookaside buffer (TLB).
In computing, a process is an instance of a computer program that is being executed. A process always exists in exactly one process state. A process that is blocked is one that is waiting for some event, such as a resource becoming available or the completion of an I/O operation.
Process management is an integral part of any modern-day operating system (OS). The OS must allocate resources to processes, enable processes to share and exchange information, protect the resources of each process from other processes and enable synchronization among processes. To meet these requirements, the OS must maintain a data structure for each process, which describes the state and resource ownership of that process, and which enables the OS to exert control over each process.
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