How to wait for multiple C++ coroutines to complete before propagating failure, symmetric transfer

Raymond Chen

Last time, we wrote a simple coroutine promise to help us with our when_all_completed function. One obvious refinement we can make is to avoid stack build-up by using symmetric transfer.

Observe that in both of the await_suspend flows, we resume another coroutine. In our initial implementation, we accomplished this by calling the resume() method on the desired coroutine handle. However, this results in stack build-up: The caller awaits the coroutine by calling resume() on the coroutine, and when the coroutine finishes, it returns control to the caller by calling resume() on the caller’s coroutine handle. So we’re two frames deep.

This cycle repeats for each awaitable passed to the when_all_completed function, and there could be quite a few of them.

We can use symmetric transfer to avoid the stack build-up, since the last thing each function does is resume some other coroutine.

First, we’ll use symmetric transfer when starting the coroutine:

struct all_completed_result
    all_completed_promise& promise;
    bool await_ready() noexcept { return false; }
    auto await_suspend(
        std::coroutine_handle<> handle) noexcept;
    std::exception_ptr await_resume() noexcept;

auto all_completed_result::
    await_suspend(std::coroutine_handle<> handle)
    promise.awaiting_coroutine = handle;
    return promise.coroutine();

When lazy-starting the coroutine, we return the coroutine’s handle instead of manually resuming it. This activates symmetric transfer, so the compiler can use a tail call to jump directly to the coroutine, avoiding a stack frame.

Doing the same thing when the coroutine finishes takes a little more work because the symmetric transfer happens in await_suspend, but our original version was resuming the caller in final_suspend. We’ll have to arrange for the caller’s handle to be returned from await_suspend.

struct all_completed_promise

    auto final_suspend() noexcept {                      
        struct awaiter : std::suspend_always             
            std::coroutine_handle<> other;               
            auto await_suspend(std::coroutine_handle<>) {
                return other;                            
        return awaiter{{}, awaiting_coroutine};          

This is the actual symmetric transfer part: We save the coroutine handle we want to resume in the awaiter, so that the awaiter can return it from await_suspend. Again, symmetric transfer allows the resumption of the awaiting coroutine to happen as a tail call, avoiding a stack frame.

But we’re not done yet.

We suspended the promise’s coroutine, so it remains allocated in memory. We need to destroy it after we extract the eptr in the await_resume that returns it to the caller.

std::exception_ptr all_completed_result::
    await_resume() noexcept
    auto eptr = promise.eptr;     
    return eptr;                  

Okay, so that reduces the likelihood of stack exhaustion issues when awaiting a whole bunch of awaitables inside when_all_completed.

But wait, we haven’t addressed the std::bad_alloc problem that we identified a while back. We got distracted with all the simplifications that a custom promise offered, but forgot why why we wrote our own custom promise in the first place. Let’s return to that next time.


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