Avoiding Locks in Golang

Golang maps are not safe for concurrent writes.

Common solutions are to use sync.Mutex, sync.RWMutex, or a mutex implemented with chan. Depending on how your application is structured, we can avoid locking with select.

Synchronizing map access with select

package main

import (

var m = make(map[int]int)

// Writes a random k,v pair to the map
func write() {
    k := rand.Int()
    m[k] = rand.Int()

// Returns a random value stored in the map
func read() int {
    keys := make([]int, 0, len(m))
    for k, _ := range m {
        keys = append(keys, k)
    key := keys[rand.Int()%len(keys)]
    return m[key]

func main() {
    m[0] = 0 // avoids 0 len map
    quit := time.After(time.Second)
    r := time.Tick(time.Millisecond)
    w := time.Tick(time.Millisecond * 2)
    for {
        select {
        case <-r:
        case <-w:
        case <-quit:
            break loop

In this example, if m were automatically safe for concurrent RW, we would still need manual locking for the body of read() due to the len(m) call.

This method is unsuitable if the functions called in any of the case: take significant execution time relative to how often a channel in the select has data. Channel queues would fill up and timers would be delayed or skipped.


I’ve created a repo for comparing the performance of using select versus sync.Mutex.

git clone https://github.com/xsleonard/select-vs-mutex.git
cd select-vs-mutex/
go test -bench=With

The 100us suffix is how often the read ticker fires. The write ticker fires twice as often as the read ticker.

The locking method is significantly faster with a high tick rate, but performance converges with a 1ms tick rate. The relative poor performance at 10us may be due our write() or read() methods taking longer than the tick rate, or limitations in the go runtime handling blocking select with such a short interval.