[C++-sig] alternative smart pointer (intrusive_ptr) example

Jeff Webb jeff.webb at nta-inc.net
Tue Jul 29 04:41:16 CEST 2008

David Abrahams wrote:
> on Mon Jul 28 2008, Alex Mohr <amohr-AT-pixar.com> wrote:
>>>> (2) using a global dictionary to store the Pointee->PyObject mappings
>>> Isn't this going to incur comparable memory use to shared_ptr?
>> We use a global table.
>> Suppose you have a system where there are hundreds of thousands of
>> objects and only some small fraction of them are passed to python.
>> In this case, adding 8 bytes of overhead to every object versus adding
>> 8 bytes of overhead to only those objects passed to python can save
>> 100s of KB of memory.  Perhaps that doesn't sound like a lot these
>> days, but when your users are always trying to push the hardware and
>> software as hard as they possibly can, it can definitely make a
>> difference.
>> Formerly I embedded the python objects inside the C++ objects but
>> switched to the global table due to memory usage.
> I wasn't talking about adding storage to every instance of a class.
> Boost.Python converts any wrapped object of type T to a shared_ptr<T>
> which, when passed back to Python, gets converted back to the original
> Python object.  The last shared_ptr to that object may be reclaimed when
> the C++ code is done using it.

It sounds like Alex and I have very similar applications, or at least 
we're thinking along the same lines.  I am using smart pointers for 
memory management within the C++ library itself.  Objects hold smart 
pointers to other objects, and smart pointers to objects are passed as 
arguments to various member functions.  I want these smart pointers to 
be as memory efficient as possible because there will be a lot of them.

I also want to be able to expose any of these objects (as well as 
functions that take smart pointers to these objects) to python without 
adding memory overhead to the internal smart pointers or the class 
instances themselves.  As Alex mentioned, adding some overhead to keep 
track of the wrapped objects is acceptable (and probably unavoidable), 
so the global table seems like a good option.

To clarify, are you suggesting that I should change my internal C++ code 
to use shared_ptrs everywhere, or something else?

Sorry that it's taking us a while to get on the same page.


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