Rust thread_local bad performance?

Basically I want a thread local storage which may be accessed very frequently.
I estimate the performance of 2 ways of doing this:

  1. use C’s __thread to declare a thread local storage, use C functions to access them from Rust. For this, I pay for the cost of functions calls.
  2. use Rust’s thread_local!() macro. Rust’s thread local key implementation is pretty costly. This destroys the performance.

This is the result that I get. Using thread local in C took 0 msec. Accessing C’s thread local from Rust took 18 msec. And using Rust’s thread_local!() took 33 msec. I am hoping to get a performance similar to C’s thread local (0 msec) in Rust.

C: 12499997500000
C: 0 msec
Rust_C: 12499997500000
Rust_C: 18 msec
RUST: 12499997500000
RUST: 33 msec

I am wondering if there is a way to achieve this. One possible way that I can think of is to use Rust’s inline assembly to access C’s thread local variable (through FS register on x64), but it is a hack that I would like to avoid if possible.

The following is my testing code:


extern crate time;
use std::cell::RefCell;

const ITERATION : i64 = 5000000;

fn main() {
    unsafe {c_thread_local();}

#[link(name = "thread_local", kind = "static")]
extern "C" {
    fn create_thread_local();
    fn thread_local() -> *mut ThreadLocal;
    fn c_thread_local();

struct ThreadLocal {
    i : i64

fn c_version() {
    unsafe {
        let start = time::now_utc();
        for i in 1..ITERATION {
            (*thread_local()).i += i;
        let end = time::now_utc();
        println!("Rust_C: {}", (*thread_local()).i);
        println!("Rust_C: {} msec", (end - start).num_milliseconds());

thread_local!(static RUST_THREAD_LOCAL : RefCell<ThreadLocal> = RefCell::new(ThreadLocal{i: 0}));

fn rust_version() {
    let start = time::now_utc();
    for i in 1..ITERATION {
        RUST_THREAD_LOCAL.with(|x| {
                x.borrow_mut().i += i;
    let end = time::now_utc();
    println!("RUST: {}", RUST_THREAD_LOCAL.with(|x| {x.borrow().i}));
    println!("RUST: {} msec", (end - start).num_milliseconds()); 


#include <sys/time.h>
#include <inttypes.h>

typedef struct ThreadLocal {
    int64_t i;
} ThreadLocal;

__thread ThreadLocal* for_rust;

void create_thread_local() {
    for_rust = (ThreadLocal*) malloc(sizeof(ThreadLocal));

ThreadLocal* thread_local() {
    return for_rust;

__thread ThreadLocal* for_c;
void c_thread_local() {
    for_c = (ThreadLocal*) malloc(sizeof(ThreadLocal));

    struct timeval start, end;

    gettimeofday(&start, NULL);
    int64_t i = 1;
    for (; i < 5000000; i++)
        for_c->i = for_c->i + i;
    gettimeofday(&end, NULL);

    int duration = (int) ((double) (end.tv_usec - start.tv_usec) / 1000 + (double) (end.tv_sec - start.tv_sec) * 1000);

    printf("C: %" PRIi64 "\n", for_c->i);
    printf("C: %d msec\n", duration);


name = "hello_world"
version = "0.0.1"
authors = [ "Your name <>" ]
build = ""

git = ""

name = "hello_world"

time = "0.1.34"


extern crate gcc;

fn main() {

Are you sure the C version isn’t just optimizing the for loop out completely into a 12499997500000 literal?

Sorry, my mistake. Yes, the C compiler did optimize the loop away.
But still Rust’s thread_local!() runs slower than the version of using C thread local from Rust. I am wondering if there is a better way to achieve thread local.

I suspect this might be because you call borrow_mut on every loop iteration. I’m pretty sure the RefCell isn’t necessary in this case.

Another thing you might want to try (only on nightly):


static mut RUST_THREAD_LOCAL: ThreadLocal = ThreadLocal{i: 0};

It seems I cannot have mut thread_locals with release version. Is there a cheaper way to get mutability other than RefCell?

I will try the nightly version.

Cell<T> is cheaper and simpler, when you can use it.

If I remember correct, Cell is for Copy type only.

I personally think using RefCell with dynamic borrow for a thread local variable doesn’t quite make sense, since there shouldn’t be any race contention for a thread local thing. However, it seems there is no other way.

RefCell doesn’t have anything to do with race conditions - mutable aliasing is an issue even in a single threaded context:

let mut foo = Some(1i32);

let i = foo.as_ref().unwrap();
println!("{}", i); // prints 1

foo = None;

println!("{}", i); // now what?

While the borrow checker will statically report that as an error, RefCell exists to delay the same aliasing rules to runtime.