Block Allocator

Previous Design

Historically there have been two image allocators in Pillow: ImagingAllocateBlock and ImagingAllocateArray. The first works for images smaller than 16MB of data and allocates one large chunk of memory of im->linesize * im->ysize bytes. The second works for large images and make one allocation for each scan line of size im->linesize bytes. This makes for a very sharp transition between one allocation and potentially thousands of small allocations, leading to unpredictable performance penalties around the transition.

New Design

ImagingAllocateArray now allocates space for images as a chain of blocks with a maximum size of 16MB. If there is a memory allocation error, it falls back to allocating a 4KB block, or at least one scan line. This is now the default for all internal allocations.

ImagingAllocateBlock is now only used for those cases when we are specifically requesting a single segment of memory for sharing with other code.

Memory Pools

There is now a memory pool to contain a supply of recently freed blocks, which can then be reused without going back to the OS for a fresh allocation. This caching of free blocks is currently disabled by default, but can be enabled and tweaked using three environment variables:

  • PILLOW_ALIGNMENT, in bytes. Specifies the alignment of memory allocations. Valid values are powers of 2 between 1 and 128, inclusive. Defaults to 1.
  • PILLOW_BLOCK_SIZE, in bytes, K, or M. Specifies the maximum block size for ImagingAllocateArray. Valid values are integers, with an optional k or m suffix. Defaults to 16M.
  • PILLOW_BLOCKS_MAX Specifies the number of freed blocks to retain to fill future memory requests. Any freed blocks over this threshold will be returned to the OS immediately. Defaults to 0.