Monday 29 July 2013

Atomicity of Unaligned Memory Access in Java

This is an attempt to clarify and improve on previous statements I've made here (and before that here) on unaligned memory access and it's implications. Let's start from the top:
  1. Unaligned access is reading/writing a short/int/long from/to an address that is not divisible by it's size.
  2. Unaligned access to data on the heap is not possible without using sun.misc.Unsafe.
  3. Unaligned access to data off the heap is possible via direct ByteBuffer.
  4. Unaligned access to data is very possible using unsafe both on/off heap.
  5. Unaligned access is therefore bad news even for good boys and girls using direct ByteBuffer, as the result on unaligned access are architecture/OS specific. You may find that your code crashes inexplicably on some processes when running some OSs.
  6. Unaligned access atomicity pure and simple is not a JVM issue. You can only "legally" do it by using direct ByteBuffer, and that is explicitly not a thread safe object so you are in no position to expect atomicity (As an aside, in heap ByteBuffers all writes are not atomic)
  7. What happens on unaligned access stays on unaligned access ;-)
So unaligned access is a problem for the few, and concurrent unaligned access is a problem for naughty, tricksy hobbitses who want to play with matches. Such devils may want to write an IPC, or use off heap memory to store structs, and are hoping to get coherent results. Here's my results thus far for x86 processors. Skip to the summary at the end if you don't care for the journey.

Unaligned access within the cache line

Unaligned access within the cache line is not atomic on older Intel processors, but is atomic on later models (from the intel developer manual under 8.1.1 Guaranteed Atomic Operations): 
"The P6 family processors (and newer processors since) guarantee that the following additional memory operation will always be carried out atomically: 
  • Unaligned 16-, 32-, and 64-bit accesses to cached memory that fit within a cache line"
To demonstrate this time around I'll use a simpler means than JCStress and just roll my own, the same tests are available on my fork of JCStress here. The same test will be used for the cross line test, and it covers all 3 flavours of visible writes (ordered/volatile,CAS):
We expect the test to run forever (or as long as we need to feel comfortable) if the writes are atomic. If they are not we expect the test to write "WTF" and exit early. Running the test for all write variations with an offset of 12 leads to no breakage of atomicity when run on a Core2Duo and Xeon, this test should break (i.e exit early, WTF) on older processors and this result has been confirmed to indeed happen.
So far so good, unaligned access is confirmed atomic on recent Intel processors and the evidence supports the documentation.

Unaligned access across the cache line

Crossing the cache line falls outside the scope of the prev. statement quoted so is not atomic unless we use the LOCK instruction (see under Software Controlled Bus Locking):
"The integrity of a bus lock is not affected by the alignment of the memory field. The LOCK semantics are followed for as many bus cycles as necessary to update the entire operand. However, it is recommend that locked accesses be aligned on their natural boundaries for better system performance... Locked operations are atomic with respect to all other memory operations and all externally visible events."
Cool, so... which one is locked? One way to find out is run the test, so I did.... and... it looks like none...
So nothing is locked? that seemed wrong.
Certainly CAS is locked. CAS translates directly into LOCK CMPXCHG, so definitely locked, and yet the experiment definitely fails. This is as far as I got with JCStress, and this result raised some eyebrows. Re-reading through the code I wrote for JCStress didn't raise any suspicion, so I wrote a variation of the above test and still it looked like the CAS values are broken.
I have to admit I was happy to leave it at that, and in some ways it is not a wrong conclusion, but I met with some insistent doubt from Mr. Gil Tene of Azul. With both Gil and the Intel manual insisting this is not right I had a final go at cracking this contradiction and read through the assembly. The CAS writes are indeed as expected LOCK CMPXCHG, but the volatile read is:
  0x0000000106b5d60c: movabs r10,0x7f92a38248fc
  0x0000000106b5d616: mov    r10,QWORD PTR [r10]  ;*invokevirtual getLongVolatile
A MOV with no lock! So it is perhaps not the CAS that is broken, it is the volatile read. To prove the point I change the test for broken values to be:

And indeed, with this version CAS is proved to never deliver broken values, CAS is atomic across the cache line. But... as far as Java is concerned, this is only of use if you want to use CAS to test for the written values, which is not that useful. This highlights the fact that while CAS is implemented using LOCK CMPXCHG, it does not have the same interface. CMPXCHG returns the current value even on failure. That would have been exactly what we'd want to replace the volatile read in this particular and admittedly perverse case.
Now with the new atomic observation we can re-examine the atomicity of the ordered and volatile writers. And find, to our shared joy/sorrow that they are just as broken as before. The ordered write should come as no surprise as it is a plain MOV, but the volatile write is a bit surprising (to me if not to others. Gil for instance wasn't surprised, the clever bastard). It's a close call thing, you could implement a volatile write using a single locked instruction (LOCK XCHG), but the actual implementation is via a MOV followed by a LOCK ADD (see end of Martin's post and comments for discussion on that implementation choice). As things currently stand, cache line crossing volatile writes are not atomic.

Summary & Credits

Rules of unalignment thus far are:
  1. If you can at all help it, read and write aligned data.
  2. Unaligned writes and reads within the cache line are atomic on recent Intel processors, but not atomic on older models.
  3. Unaligned writes and reads across the cache line are not atomic unless they are locked.
  4. Of the available options, only CAS is locked. There is no locked way to read an arbitrary value.
  5. Volatile/Ordered writes are not atomic, volatile read is also not atomic.
The above is true for Intel x86, but I would not expect other processors to behave the same.
This post is really a summary of the combined efforts and ideas by Gil, Martin (thanks guys) and myself. Any errors are in all probability mine, please let me know if you find any. The test code is here, you can run with any offset, write type or read type by playing with the system properties, have a play and let me know your results. I'm particularly curious to hear from anyone running on non-intel processors who can share their results.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Java Concurrency Torture Update: Don't Stress

A piece of late news: the concurrency suite is back. And so is my little test on top of it.
A few months ago I posted on yet another piece of joyful brilliance crafted by Master Shipilev, the java-concurrency-suite. I used the same framework to demonstrate some valid concerns regarding unaligned access to memory, remember children:
  • Unaligned access is not atomic
  • Unaligned access is potentially slow, in particular:
    • On older processors
    • If you cross the cache line
  • Unaligned access can lead to SEG_FAULT on non-intel architectures, and the result of that might be severe performance hit or your process crashing...
It was so much fun that someone had to put a stop to it, and indeed they did.
The java-concurrency-suite had to be removed from github, and the Master Inquisitor asked me to stop fucking around and remove my fork too, if it's not too much trouble... so I did.
Time flew by and at some point the powers that be decided the tool can return, but torture was too much of a strong word for those corporate types and so it has been rebranded JCStress. JC is nothing to do with the Jewish Community, as some might assume, it is the same Java Concurrency but now it's not torture (it's sanctioned after all), it's stress. Aleksey is simply stressing your JVM, he is not being excessively and creatively sadistic, that would be too much!
Following the article I had a short discussion with Mr T and Gil T with regards to unaligned access in the comments to Martin's blog post on off-heap tuple like storage. The full conversation is long, so I won't bore you, but the questions asked were:
  1. Is unaligned access a performance only, or also a correctness issue?
  2. Are 'volatile' write/reads safer than normal writes/reads?
The answers to the best of my understanding are:
  1. Unaligned access is not atomic[Correction 23/09/2013: On later Intel processor unaligned access within the cache line is atomic, but access across the line is not. See update below and related later post], and therefore can lead to the sort of trouble you will not usually experience in your programs (i.e half written long/int/short values). This is a problem even if you use memory barriers correctly. It adds a 'happened-badly' eventuality to the usual happens before/after reasoning and special care must be taken to not get slapped in the face with a telephone pole.
  2. Volatile read/writes are NOT special. In particular doing a CAS[Correction 23/09/2013: CAS is atomic, all others are not. See update below and related later post]/putOrdered/putVolatile write to an unaligned location such that the value is written across the cache line is NOT ATOMIC.
This came up in a discussion recently, which prompted me to go and fork JCStress on to bitbucket and rerun the experiments on both a Core2Duo and a Xeon processor and re-confirmed the result. This is a problem for folks considering the Atomics for ByteBuffer suggestion discussed on the concurrency-interest mailing list. There is nothing in the ByteBuffer interface to stop you from doing unaligned access...

UPDATE (1/08/2013): Shipilev's slides from JVMLS lightning talk.

UPDATE (23/09/2013): I've discussed the issue further with Gil and Martin, which led to the following post. Some corrections to the above observations have been made which I now inlined above.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

SPSC Revisited - part II: Floating vs Inlined Counters

{This post is part of a long running series on lock free queues, checkout the full index to get more context here}
Continued from here, we examine the comparative performance of 2 approaches to implementing queue counters.
If we trace back through the journey we've made with our humble SPSC queue you'll note a structural back and forth has happened. In the first post, the first version had the following layout (produced using the excellent java-object-layout tool):
 offset  size     type description
      0    12          (assumed to be the object header + first field alignment)
     12     4 Object[] P1C1QueueOriginal1.buffer
     16     8     long P1C1QueueOriginal1.tail
     24     8     long P1C1QueueOriginal1.head
     32                (object boundary, size estimate)
We went on to explore various optimisations which were driven by our desire to:
  1. Replace volatile writes with lazySet
  2. Reduce false sharing of hot fields
To achieve these we ended up extracting the head/tail counters into their own objects and the layout turned to this:
 offset  size       type description
      0    12            (assumed to be the object header + first field alignment)
     12     4        int P1C1QueueOriginal3.capacity
     16     4        int P1C1QueueOriginal3.mask
     20     4   Object[] P1C1QueueOriginal3.buffer
     24     4 AtomicLong P1C1QueueOriginal3.tail
     28     4 AtomicLong P1C1QueueOriginal3.head
     32     4 PaddedLong P1C1QueueOriginal3.tailCache
     36     4 PaddedLong P1C1QueueOriginal3.headCache
     40                  (object boundary, size estimate)
But that is not the whole picture, we now had 4 new objects (2 of each class below) referred from the above object:$PaddedLong
 offset  size type description
      0    12      (assumed to be the object header + first field alignment)
     12     4      (alignment/padding gap)
     16     8 long PaddedLong.value
     24-64  8 long PaddedLong.p1-p6
     72            (object boundary, size estimate)
 offset  size type description
      0    12      (assumed to be the object header + first field alignment)
     12     4      (alignment/padding gap)
     16     8 long AtomicLong.value
     24-64  8 long PaddedAtomicLong.p1-p6
     72            (object boundary, size estimate)
These counters are different from the original because they are padded (on one side at least), but also they represent a different overall memory layout/access pattern. The counters are now floating. They can get relocated at the whim of the JVM. Given these are in all probability long lived objects I
wouldn't think they move much after a few collections, but each collection presents a new opportunity to shuffle them about.
In my last post I explored 2 directions at once:
  1. I fixed all the remaining false-sharing potential by padding the counters, the class itself and the data in the array.
  2. I inlined the counters back into the queue class, in a way returning to the original layout (with all the trimmings we added later), but with more padding.
I ended up with the following layout:
 offset  size     type description
      0    12          (assumed to be the object header + first field alignment)
     12     4          (alignment/padding gap)
     16-72  8     long L0Pad.p00-07
     80     4      int ColdFields.capacity
     84     4      int ColdFields.mask
     88     4 Object[] ColdFields.buffer
     92     4          (alignment/padding gap)
     96-144 8     long L1Pad.p10-16
    152     8     long TailField.tail
    160-208 8     long L2Pad.p20-26
    216     8     long HeadCache.headCache
    224-272 8     long L3Pad.p30-36
    280     8     long HeadField.head
    288-336 8     long L4Pad.p40-46
    344     8     long TailCache.tailCache
    352-400 8     long L5Pad.p50-56
    408                (object boundary, size estimate)
This worked well, reducing run to run variance almost completely and delivering good performance. The problem was it was failing to hit the highs of the original implementation and variants, particularly when running across cores.
To further explore the difference between the inlined and floating versions I went back and applied the full padding treatment to the floating counters version. This meant replacing PaddedLong and PaddedAtomicLong with fully padded implementations, adding padding around the class fields and padding the data. The full code is here, it's very similar to what we've done to pad the other classes. The end result has the following layout:
 offset  size             type description
      0    12                  (assumed to be the object header + first field alignment)
     12     4                  (alignment/padding gap)
     16-72  8             long SPSPQueueFloatingCounters4P0.p00-p07
     80     4              int SPSPQueueFloatingCounters4Fields.capacity
     84     4              int SPSPQueueFloatingCounters4Fields.mask
     88     4         Object[] SPSPQueueFloatingCounters4Fields.buffer
     92     4 VolatileLongCell SPSPQueueFloatingCounters4Fields.tail
     96     4 VolatileLongCell SPSPQueueFloatingCounters4Fields.head
    100     4         LongCell SPSPQueueFloatingCounters4Fields.tailCache
    104     4         LongCell SPSPQueueFloatingCounters4Fields.headCache
    108     4                  (alignment/padding gap)
    112-168 8             long SPSPQueueFloatingCounters4.p10-p17
    176                        (object boundary, size estimate)

 offset  size type description
      0    12      (assumed to be the object header + first field alignment)
     12     4      (alignment/padding gap)
     16-64  8 long LongCellP0.p0-p6
     72     8 long LongCellValue.value
     80-128 8 long LongCell.p10-p16
    136            (object boundary, size estimate)

 offset  size type description
      0    12      (assumed to be the object header + first field alignment)
     12     4      (alignment/padding gap)
     16-64  8 long VolatileLongCellP0.p0-p6
     72     8 long VolatileLongCellValue.value
     80-128 8 long VolatileLongCell.p10-p16
    136            (object boundary, size estimate)
If we cared more about memory consumption we could count the object header as padding and pad with integers to avoid the alignment gaps. I'm not that worried, so I won't. Note that the floating counters have to consume double the padding required for the flattened counters as they have no guarantees of their neighbours on either side. In the interest of comparing the impact of the data padding separately I also implemented a none data padding version.

Which one is more better?

While the charts produced previously are instructive and good at highlighting the variance, they make the post very bulky, so this time we'll try a table. The data with the charts is available here for those who prefer them. I've expanded the testing of JVM parameters a bit to cover the effect of the combinations of the 3 options used before, otherwise the method and setup are the same. The abbreviations stand for the following:
  • O1 - original lock-free SPSC queue with the original padding.
  • FC3 - Floating Counters, fully padded, data is not padded.
  • FC4 - Floating Counters, fully padded, data is padded.
  • I3 - Inlined Counters, fully padded, data is not padded.
  • I4 - Inlined Counters, fully padded, data is padded.
  • CCM - using the -XX:+UseConcCardMark flag
  • CT - using the -XX:CompileThreshold=100000 flag
  • NUMA - using the -XX:+UseNUMA flag
Same Core(each cell is min, mid, max, all numbers are in millions of ops/sec, bold is best result, red is best overall):
FC493, 96,10187, 89,9099,100,10182, 95,10089, 90,9086, 90,9081,101,10189, 90,90
I3103,123,13097, 98,100129,129,130122,129,130105,106,10797, 98,99128,129,130104,105,107

Cross Core:
O138, 90,13057, 84,13640, 94,10838, 59,11858, 98,11455,113,13039,53,10957,96,112
I386,114,12288,113,12872, 96,11190,112,12386, 98,10885,117,12588,96,11190,99,108

I leave it to you to read meaning into the results, but my take aways are as follows:
  • Increasing the the CompileThreshold is not equally good for all code in all cases. In the data above it is not proving helpful of and by itself in the cross core case for any implementation. It does seem to help once CCM is thrown in as well.
  • Using ConCardMark makes a mighty difference. It hurts performance on the single core, but greatly improves the cross core case for all implementations. The difference made by CCM is covered by Dave Dice here and it goes a long way to explain the variance experienced in the inlined versions when running without it. 
  • NUMA makes little difference that I can see to the above cases. This is as expected since the code is being run on the same NUMA node throughout. Running across NUMA nodes we might see a difference.
  • As you can see there is still quite a bit of instability going on, though as an overall recommendation thus far I'd say I4 is the winner. FC4 is not that far behind when you consider the mid results to be the most representative. It also offers more stable overall results in terms of the variance.
  • 173M ops/sec! it's a high note worth musing over... But... didn't I promise you 250M? I did, you'll have to wait.
The above results also demonstrates that data inlining is a valid optimization with measurable benefits. I expect the results in more real-life scenarios to favor the inlined version even more as it offers better data locality and predictable access over the floating fields variants.
One potential advantage for the floating counters may be available should we be able to allocate the counters on their writer threads. I have not explored this option, but based on Dave Dice's observations I expect some improvement. This will make the queue quite awkward to set up, but worth a go.
There's at least one more post coming on this topic, considering the mechanics of the experiment and their implications. And after that? buggered if I know. But hang in there, it might become interesting again ;-)

UPDATE: thanks Chris Vest for pointing out I left out the link to the data, fixed now.

Monday 15 July 2013

Single Producer Single Consumer Queue Revisited: An empiricist tale - part I

{This post is part of a long running series on lock free queues, checkout the full index to get more context here}
Applying lessons learnt about memory layout to prev. discussed SPSC (Single Producer Single Consumer) queue. Tackling and observing some manifestations of false sharing. Getting bitch slapped by reality.

In preparations to implement an MPMC (Many Producers Many Consumers) queue I went back to Martin Thompson's SPSC queue I dissected in detail in this blog post. I was going to use it as the basis for the new queue with a few changes and discuss the transition. In particular an opportunity offered in the implementation of said queue with the addition of the new getAndAdd intrinsic to JDK 8. I was going to... but then I thought, 'let me try a couple more things!' :-).

Where were we?

In case you can't be bothered to go back and read the whole thing again, here's a quick summary. Mr. Thompson open sourced a few samples he discusses in his presentation on lock-free algorithms, in particular a SPSC queue developed across a few stages. I broke down the stages further and benchmarked before and after to explore the effect of each optimisation as it is applied. I then ported the same queue into an off-heap implementation and used it to demonstrate a fast IPC mechanism capable of sending 135M messages per second between processes. The queue demonstrated the following techniques:
Snowman contemplating
  • lock free, single writer principle observed.
  • Set capacity to power of 2, use mask instead of modulo. 
  • Use lazySet instead of volatile write.
  • Minimize volatile reads by adding local cache fields.
  • Pad all the hot fields: head, tail, headCache,tailCache to avoid false sharing.
So... what's to improve on? There were a few niggles I had looking at this code again, some I've mentioned before. The last time I benchmarked the original queue implementation I noticed high run to run variance in the results. This was particularly prominent when running across 2 cores on the same socket or across sockets.
To expose the variance I modified the test to produce a summary line (each test runs 20 iterations, the summary is the average of the last 10 test iterations) and ran it 30 times. The results demonstrate the variance (results are sorted to highlight the range, X-axis is the run index, Y-axis is a summary of the run, SC means producer and consumer run on the same core, CC means they run across cores on the same socket):

Original queue performance
OUCH! We get half the performance 20% of the time. The results were very stable within a given run, leading me to believe there was a genuine issue at play.

So I thought, let's poke the i's and kick the t's, see if we can shake the variance out of the bugger.

Terms & Conditions

Benchmarks were carried out on a dual socket Xeon running CentOS 6 and Oracle JDK 1.7u17. Affinity was set using taskset, the scripts used are included with the code as well as the raw results and the LibreOffice spread sheets used for the graphs. Furry, fluffy animals were not harmed and people of different religions and races were treated with the outmost respect and afforded equal opportunity. I ran the cross socket tests, and the data is included, but I chose not to discuss them as no improvement was made on that front and they would make this already long post longer. 

Flatten me counters!

To start off, I was not thrilled with the way the counter padding was implemented, for 2 reasons:
  1. By using container classes for the counters we introduce indirection, we could optimise by inlining the data into the queue structure.
  2. The Padded* classes only pad to one side, we are counting on the instances to be laid out together because they are instantiated together. In the right environment I'm pretty sure this can go wrong. By go wrong I mean the instances might get allocated/placed next to data modified elsewhere leading to false sharing. By inlining the counters and forcing strict order we could kill 2 bird with one stone.
To inline the counters, and provide the padding required to provide false-sharing protection I used inheritance to force layout (as outlined previously here). I used Unsafe to get field offset and implement lazySet directly into the fields inlined in my class (this is replacing the original PaddedLong/PaddedAtomicLong, the same method is used in AtomicLong to implement lazySet) the code:

It ain't pretty, but it does the job. The layout can be verified using the excellent java-object-layout tool (I format the output for brevity):
 offset  size     type description
      0    12          (assumed to be the object header + first field alignment)
     12     4      int ColdFields.capacity
     16     4      int ColdFields.mask
     20     4 Object[] ColdFields.buffer
     24-72  8     long L1Pad.p10-16
     80     8     long TailField.tail
     88-136 8     long L2Pad.p20-p26
    144     8     long HeadCache.headCache
    152-200 8     long L3Pad.p30-36
    208     8     long HeadField.head
    216-264 8     long L4Pad.p40-46
    272     8     long TailCache.tailCache
    280-328 8     long L5Pad.p50-56
    336                (object boundary, size estimate)

Wicked! Run the same tests above to see what happened:
Original vs. Inlined counters(I1)

We get a small improvement when running on the same core (average 3% improvement), but the cross core behaviour is actually worse. Bummer, keep kicking. 

Padding the class fields

If we look at the above memory layout, we'll notice the fields capacity, mask and buffer are left flush against the object header. This means that they are open to false sharing with other objects/data allocated on the same cache line. We can add a further love handle on that big boy to cover that front:

Note that by happy coincidence we have already padded the tail side of the fields as part of our flattening exercise. So now the layout is:
 offset  size     type description
      0    12          (assumed to be the object header + first field alignment)
     12     4          (alignment/padding gap)
     16-72  8     long L0Pad.p00-07
     80     4      int ColdFields.capacity
     84     4      int ColdFields.mask
     88     4 Object[] ColdFields.buffer
     92     4          (alignment/padding gap)
     96-144 8     long L1Pad.p10-16
    152     8     long TailField.tail
    160-208 8     long L2Pad.p20-26
    216     8     long HeadCache.headCache
    224-272 8     long L3Pad.p30-36
    280     8     long HeadField.head
    288-336 8     long L4Pad.p40-46
    344     8     long TailCache.tailCache
    352-400 8     long L5Pad.p50-56
    408                (object boundary, size estimate)

Try again and we get:
Original vs Inlined counters and padded class(I3)

Same single core behaviour as above, but the cross core behaviour looks stable. Sadly the cross core results are worse than the original in many cases. Good thing there is one more trick up our sleeves.

Padding the data

So, this last step may seem a bit over the top, padding the sides of the buffer as well as spacing out all the bloody fields. Surely you must be joking? I padded the buffer by allocating an extra 32 slots to the array and skipping the first 16 on access. The object layout remains the same, you'll have to imagine the extra padding (code is here). But the results are:
Original vs Inlined counters, padded class and padded data(I4)

Run fat Q! Run! This is a nice kick in the single core category (10% increase) and in the cross core it is pretty flat indeed. So when the original behaves they are much the same, but the average result is a 10% improvement. Very little variance remains.

But it's UGLY!

Got me there, indeed it is. Why do we need to go this far to get rid of flaky behaviour? This is one of
Y do we care?
them times when having a direct line to memory management really helps, and Java has always been about you not having to worry about this sort of thing. There is help on the way in the form of the @Contended annotation which would render the above class much nicer, but even then you will need to pad the buffer by yourself. If you look at how the OffHeapQueue manages this issue, you'll see that less padding is required when you know the data alignment. Sadly there is no @Align(size=byte|short|int|long|cache|page) annotation coming anytime soon, and the @Contended annotation is not clear on how you could go about marking an instance rather than a class/field as contended.

Hang on, what if we do it the other way around?

For all you logical minded people out there who think: "we applied the changes together, but not separately. What if this is all about the data padding? we could fix the original without all this fuss...". I feel your pain obsessive brothers. So I went back and added 2 variants, one of a padded data original(referred to as O2 in the graphs) and another of the padded data and inlined fields without the class field padding. I was surprised by the results:

Same Core comparison of data padding impact

Padding the data, of and by itself made things worse for the original implementation and the inlined implementation when running on the same core. Padding the data sucks!
Cross Core comparison of data padding impact
When we look at the cross core results we can see some benefit from the data padding, suggesting it is part of the issue we are trying to solve, but not the whole story.
Padding the cold fields by itself also did little for the performance, as demonstrated above, but removed some of the variance. The 2 put together however gave us some extra performance, and killed the variance issue. Why? I don't know... But there you go, holistic effects of memory layout at work.

A happy ending?

Well... sort of. You see, all the above tests were run with the following JVM options:
-XX:+UseNUMA -XX:+UseCondCardMark -XX:CompileThreshold=100000
And thus the results present a certain truth, but maybe not all of the truth for everyone all of the time... I decided to waste some electricity and rerun some variations of the above options to see what happens. Running with no JVM options I got the following:
Cross core - no JVM opts
  • I4 which is the final inlined version is still quite stable, but it's performance lags behind the other implementations.
  • O1 which is the original implementation has less variance then before (could be luck, who knows) and has the best average result.

Same core - no JVM opts

  • This time I3 (inlined counters, padded class) is the clear winner.
  • I2 (inlined counters, padded data) is second, followed by I4 and I1.
  • When running on the same core, inlining the counters delivers a minor performance win.
Running with -XX:+UseCondCardMark:
ConcCardMark cross core
  • Using CondCardMark has reduced the range somewhat, but still a fair range for all.
  • I4 and I3 are stable, but the overall best average score goes to I1 (133M).
  • I4 is overall slightly better then O1 but worse then O2(original implementation with padded data)
ConcCardMark same core
  • I1 is the best by quite a bit, followed by I4.
Running with -XX:+UseCondCardMark -XX:CompileThreshold=100000:
-XX:+UseCondCardMark -XX:CompileThreshold=100000 - Cross Core
  • With the increased compile threshold O2 has pulled to the top followed by I4 and O1.
  • I4 is looking very much like O1
  • I1, which was the clear winner a second ago, is now rubbish.

-XX:+UseCondCardMark -XX:CompileThreshold=100000 - Same Core
  • On the same core we are seeing now the same behaviour we saw in the beginning.
  • I4 is the clear winner, I1 and I3 pushed down to second place etc.
  • This is odd, why would giving the JIT more data for compilation push the performance of I1 down?
And for comparison the results from -XX:+UseNUMA -XX:+UseCondCardMark -XX:CompileThreshold=100000 presented together:
All together now - Cross Core
  • I4 is the most stable, although O2 has the best overall average throughput.
  • Comparing with all the other combinations we seem to have degraded the performance of other options on our way to find the best option for I4 :(
All together now - Same Core

What does it all mean?

At this point I got quite frustrated. The above approach was producing improvements to the variance, and even an improvement to overall performance on occasion, but the effect was not as decisive and clear as I'd have liked. Some of the variation I just could not shake, even with the best result above I4 is still moving between 110M and 120M and has a spike on either side of this range.
These results are a fine demonstration of how time consuming and error prone the estimation of performance can be. To collect the above results I had to setup the same test to run for each implementation 30 times for each of the affinity options (same core/cross core/cross socket) and repeat
for 4 JVM options combinations (8 impls * 30 runs * 3 affinity setups * 4 JVM_OPTS + extra trial and error runs... = lots of time, quite a bit of data). This result is likely to be different on different hardware, it is likely to change with JDK8, other JVM options and so on. Even with all this effort of collecting data I am very far from having a complete answer. Is this data enough to produce meaningful results/insights at all?
To a certain extent there is evident progress here towards eliminating some of the sources of the run to run variation. Looking at the above results I feel justified in my interpretation of the object layout and the test results. In running the same code on other hardware I've observed good results for I4 and similar variation for the O1, so not all is lost. But this journey is, surprisingly enough, still not over...

More, more, more!

David Hume
If you found this riveting tale of minute implementation changes and their wacky effect on performance absorbing you will love the next chapter in which:
  • I explore cross socket performance and it's implications
  • We contemplate the ownership of memory and it's impact
  • The original implementation is evolved further
  • We hit a high note with 250M ops per second
This post is long enough as is :-)

Monday 1 July 2013

A Java Ping Buffet

Buffet pings
When considering latency/response time in the context of client/server interactions I find it useful to measure the baseline, or no-op, round trip between them. This give me a real starting point to appreciate the latency 'budget' available to me. This blog post presents an open source project offering several flavours of this baseline measurement for server connectivity latency.

How did it come about?

I put the first variation together a while back to help review baseline assumptions on TCP response time for Java applications. I figured it would be helpful to have a baseline latency number of the network/implementation stack up to the application and back. This number may seem meaningless to some, as the application does nothing much, but it serves as a boundary, a ballpark figure. If you ever did a course about networking and the layers between your application and the actual wire (the network stack), you can appreciate this measurement covers a round trip from the application layer and back.
This utility turned out to be quite useful (both to myself and a few colleagues) in the past few months. I tinkered with it some more, added another flavour of ping, and another. And there you have it, a whole bloody buffet of them. The project now implements the same baseline measurement for:
  • TCP
    • Busy spin on non-blocking sockets
    • Selector busy spin on selectNow
    • Selector blocking on select
    • Blocking sockets
    • Old IO sockets are not covered(maybe later)
  • UDP
    • Busy spin on non-blocking sockets
    • All the other cases covered for TCP are not covered(maybe later)
  • IPC via memory mapped file
This code is not entirely uniform and I beg your forgiveness (and welcome you criticism) if it offends your sensibilities. The aim was for simplicity and little enough code that it needs little in the way of explaining. All it does is ping, and measure. All measurements are in nanoseconds (Thanks Ruslan for pointing out the omission).
The original TCP spinning client/server code was taken from one of Peter Lawrey's examples, but it has been mutilated plenty since, so it's not really his fault if you don't like it. I also had great feedback and even some code contribution from Darach Ennis. Many thanks to both.
My mother has a wicked back hand

Taking the code for a drive

Imagine that you got some kit you want to measure Java baseline network performance on. The reality of these things is that the performance is going to vary for JVM/OS/Hardware and tuning for any and all of the ingredients. So off you go building a (ant dist), you copy it onto your server/servers of choice and unzip (unzip -d moose). You'll find the zip is fairly barebones and contains some scripts and a jar. You'll need to make the scripts runnable (chmod a+x *.sh). Now assuming you have Java installed you can start the server:
$ ./ spin &
And then the client:
$ ./ spin 

And in lovely CSV format the stats will pour into your terminal, making you look busy.
Using the above as a metric you can fiddle with any and all the variables available to you and compare before/after/this/that configuration.
In the previous post on this utility I covered the variance you can observe for taskset versus roaming processes, so I won't bore you with it again. All the results below were acquired while using taskset. For IPC you'll get better results when pinning to the same core (different threads) but worse tail. For TCP/UDP the best results I observed were across different cores on same socket. If you are running across 2 machines then ignore the above and pin as makes sense to you (on NUMA hardware the NIC can be aligned to a particular socket, have fun).
The tool allows for further tweaking of weather or not it will yield when busy-spinning (-Dyield=true) and adding a wait between pings (-DwaitNanos=1000). These are provided to give you a flavour of what can happen as you relax the hot loops into something closer to a back-off strategy, and as you let the client/server 'drift in their attention'.

Observing the results for the different flavours

The keen observer will notice that average latency is not reported. Average latency is not latency. Average latency is just TimeUnit/throughput. If you have a latency SLA you should know that. An average is a completely inappropriate tool for measuring latency. Take for example the case where half your requests take 0.0001 millis and half take 99.9999 millis, how is the average latency of 50 millis useful to you? Gil Tene has a long presentation on the topic which is worth a watch if the above argument is completely foreign to you.
The results are a range of percentiles, it's easy enough to add further analysis as all the observed latencies are recorded (all numbers are in nanoseconds). I considered using a histogram implementation (like the one in the Disruptor, or HdrHistogram) but decided it was better to stick to the raw data for something this small and focused. This way no precision is lost at the cost of a slightly larger memory footprint. This is not necessarily appropriate for every use case.
Having said all that, here is a sample of the results for running the code on semi-respectable hardware (all runs are pinned using taskset, all on default settings, all numbers are in nanoseconds):
Implementation, Min,   50%,   90%,   99%,   99.9%, 99.99%,Max
IPC busy-spin,  89,    127,   168,   3326,  6501,  11555, 25131
UDP busy-spin,  4597,  5224,  5391,  5958,  8466,  10918, 18396
TCP busy-spin,  6244,  6784,  7475,  8697,  11070, 16791, 27265
TCP select-now, 8858,  9617,  9845,  12173, 13845, 19417, 26171
TCP block,      10696, 13103, 13299, 14428, 15629, 20373, 32149
TCP select,     13425, 15426, 15743, 18035, 20719, 24793, 37877

Bear in mind that this is RTT(Round Trip Time) so a request-response timing. The above measurement are also over loopback, so no actual network hop. The network hop on 2 machines hooked into each other via a network cable will be similar, anything beyond that and your actual network stack will become more and more significant. Nothing can cure geography ;-)
I am sure there are further tweaks to make in the stack to improve the results. Maybe the code, maybe the OS tuning, maybe the JVM version. It doesn't matter. The point is you can take this and measure your stack. The numbers may differ, but the relative performance should be fairly similar.

Is it lunch time?

This is a bit of a detour, but bear with me. On the IPC side of things we should also start asking ourselves: what is the System.nanotime() measurement error? what sort of accuracy can we expect?
I added an ErrPingClient which runs the test loop with no actual ping logic, the result:
Min, 50%, 90%, 99%, 99.9%, 99.99%,Max
38,  50,  55,  56,  59,    80,    8919

Is this due to JVM hiccups? inherent inaccuracy of the underlying measurement method used by the JVM? in this sort of time scale the latency measurement becomes a problem onto itself and we have to revert to counting on (horrors!) average latency over a set of measurements to cancel out the inaccuracy. To quote the Hitchhikers Guide: "Time is an illusion, and lunch time doubly so", we are not going to get exact timings at this resolution, so we will need to deal with error. Dealing with this error is not something the code does for you, just be aware some error is to be expected.

What is it good for?

My aim with this tool (if you can call it that) was to uncover baseline costs of network operations on a particular setup. This is a handy figure to have when judging the overhead introduced by a framework/API. No framework in the world could beat a bare bones implementation using the same ingredients, but knowing the difference educates our shopping decisions. For example, if your 'budget' for response time is low the overhead introduced by the framework of your choice might not be appropriate. If the overhead is very high perhaps there is a bug in the framework or how you use it.
As the tool is deployable you can also use it to validate the setup/configuration and use that data to help expose issues independent of your software.
Finally, it is a good tool to help people who have grown to expect Java server applications response time to be in the tens of milliseconds range wake up and smell the scorching speed of today's hardware :-)