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Assignment #1: Malloc Library Part 1
ECE 650 – Spring 2021
See course site for due date
General Instructions
1. You will work individually on this the project.
2. The code for this assignment should be developed and tested in a UNIX-based
environment. You can use the VM that has been made available to you for ECE551.
3. You must follow this assignment specs carefully, and turn in everything that is asked
(and in the proper formats, as described).
4. You should plan to start early on this project and make steady progress over time. It will
take time and careful though to work through the assignment.
Implementation of malloc library
For this assignment, you will implement your own version of several memory allocation
functions from the C standard library (actually you will have the chance to implement and study
several different versions as described below). Your implementation is to be done in C code.
The C standard library includes 4 malloc-related library functions: malloc(), free(),
calloc(), and realloc(). In this assignment, you only need to implement versions of
malloc() and free():
void * malloc(size_t size);
void free(void *ptr);
Please refer to the man pages for full descriptions of the expected operation for these
functions. Essentially, malloc() takes in a size (number of bytes) for a memory allocation,
locates an address in the program’s data region where there is enough space to fit the specified
number of bytes, and returns this address for use by the calling program. The free() function
takes an address (that was returned by a previous malloc operation) and marks that data
region as available again for use.
The submission instructions at the end of this assignment description provide specific details
about what code files to create, what to name your new versions of the malloc functions, etc.
As you work through implementing malloc() and free(), you will discover that as memory
allocations and deallocations happen, you will sometimes free a region of memory that is
adjacent to other also free memory region(s). Your implementation is required to coalesce in
this situation by merging the adjacent free regions into a single free region of memory.
Hint: For implementing malloc(), you should become familiar with the sbrk() system call.
This system call is useful for: 1) returning the address that represents the current end of the
processes data segment (called program break), and 2) growing the size of the processes data
segment by the amount specified by “increment”.
void *sbrk(intptr_t increment);
Hint: A common way to implement malloc() / free() and manage the memory space is to
keep an adequate data structure to represent a list of free memory regions. This collection of
free memory ranges would change as malloc() and free() are called to allocate and
release regions of memory in the process data segment. You may design and implement your
malloc and free using structures and state tracking as you see best fit.
In this assignment, you will develop a malloc implementation and study different allocation
Study of Memory Allocation Policies
Your task is to implement 2 versions of malloc and free, each based on a different strategy
for determining the memory region to allocate. The two strategies are:
1. First Fit: Examine the free space tracker (e.g. free list), and allocate an address from
the first free region with enough space to fit the requested allocation size.
2. Best Fit: Examine all of the free space information, and allocate an address from the
free region which has the smallest number of bytes greater than or equal to the
requested allocation size.
The following picture illustrates how each strategy would operate (assuming free regions are
traversed in a left to right order) for a malloc() request of 2 bytes:
Requirements: Malloc implementations
To implement your allocation strategies, you will create 4 functions:
//First Fit malloc/free
void * ff_malloc(size_t size);
void ff_free(void * ptr);
//Best Fit malloc/free
void * bf_malloc(size_t size);
void bf_free(void * ptr);
Note, that in all cases, a policy to minimize the size of the process’s data segment should be
used. In other words, if there is no free space that fits an allocation request, then sbrk()
should be used to create that space. However, you do not need to perform any type of garbage
collection (e.g. reducing the size of the process’s data segment, even if allocations at the top of
the data segment have been freed).
On free(), your implementation is required to merge the newly freed region with any currently
free adjacent regions. In other words, your bookkeeping data structure should not contain
multiple adjacent free regions, as this would lead to poor region selection during malloc.
Requirement: Performance study report
In addition to implementing these malloc functions, you are tasked to conduct a performance
study of the malloc()with different allocation policies. Several programs for experimentation
will be provided that perform malloc() and free() requests with different patterns (e.g.
frequencies, sizes). The metrics of interest will be:
1) the run-time of the programs, as the implementation of different allocation policies may
result in different speeds of memory allocation;
2) the memory fragmentation is a number in the interval [0,1] (interpreted as a
percenbtage), which is measured as follows:
1 −(size of largest allocatable memory block/total size of free memory)
In order to capture #2, you should also implement two additional library functions:
unsigned long get_largest_free_data_segment_size();//in bytes
unsigned long get_total_free_size();//in bytes
Then, using these functions, you can use the included test programs as well as test programs of
your own creation to evaluate and compare the algorithms.
The Starter Kit
A starter kit is included in a file on Sakai: homework1-kit.tgz
This archive can be extracted using “tar xvzf homework1-kit.tgz”.
The kit includes:
 Makefile: A sample Makefile for
 general_tests/: General correctness test, see README.txt for details.
 alloc_policy_tests/: Allocation policy test cases, see README.txt for details.
 alloc_policy_tests_osx/: Same thing adapted for MacOS.
NOTE: Mac OS is not the grading platform; these files are provided as a convenience.
Additionally, you may need to change #include "time.h" to #include "sys/time.h"
Testing your system
Code is provided for minimal testing, but the provided materials will not exhaustively evaluate
the correctness of your implementation. It is recommended to create your own test software that
uses your library, both to aid during development and to ensure correctness in a variety of
Detailed Submission Instructions
1. Please submit a written report called report.pdf to Sakai (a submission link will be
posted soon). The report should include an overview of how you implemented the
allocation policies, results from your performance experiments, and an analysis of the
results (e.g. why do you believe you observed the results that you did for different
policies with different malloc/free patterns, do you have recommendations for which
policy seems most effective, etc.).
2. Please submit a zipped file to Sakai (e.g., if the netID is abc123, the
name of the file should be All source code should be included in a
directory named “my_malloc”.
 There should be a header file name “my_malloc.h” with the function definitions
for all *_malloc() and *_free() functions.
 You may implement these functions in “my_malloc.c”. If you would like to use
different C source files, please describe what those are in the report.
 There should be a “Makefile” which contains at least two targets: 1) “all” should
build your code into a shared library named “”, and 2) “clean”
should remove all files except for the source code files. The provided Makefile
may be used as-is, expanded upon, or replaced entirely. If you have not
compiled code into a shared library before, you should be able to find plenty of
information online. With this “Makefile” infrastructure, the test programs will be
able to: 1) #include “my_malloc.h” and 2) link against (-
lmymalloc), and then have access to the new malloc functions. Just like that, you
will have created your own version of the malloc routines in the C standard