Thursday, 13 February 2014

When I say final, I mean FINAL!

{This post is part of a long running series on lock free queues, checkout the full index to get more context here}
Having recently bitched about the lack of treatment of final field as final I was urged by Mr. Shipilev to demonstrate the issue in a more structured way (as opposed to a drunken slurred rant), I have now recovered my senses to do just that. The benchmark being run and the queue being discussed are covered in this post, so please refresh you memory for context if you need. The point is clear enough without full understanding of the context though.
It is perhaps a fact well known to those who know it well that final fields, while providing memory visibility guarantees, are not actually immutable. One can always use reflection, or Unsafe, to store new values into those fields, and in fact many people do (and Cliff Click hates them and wishes them many nasty things). This is (I believe) the reason behind some seemingly trivial optimizations not being done by the JIT compiler.

Code Under Test: FFBufferWithOfferBatch.poll()

The buffer field is a final field of FFBufferWithOfferBatch and is being accessed twice in the method above. A trivial optimization on the JIT compiler side would be to load it once into a register and reuse the value. It is 'immutable' after all. But if we look at the generate assembly (here's how to, I also took the opportunity to try out JITWatch which is brilliant):
We can see buffer is getting loaded twice (line 15, and again at line 24). Why doesn't JIT do the optimization? I'm not sure... it may be due to the volatile load forcing a load order that could in theory require the 'new' value in buffer to be made visible... I don't know.

Hack around it, see if it makes a difference

Is that a big deal? Let's find out. The fix is trivial:
And the assembly code generated demonstrates the right behaviour now (one load at line 15):
Now, was that so hard to do? And more importantly, does it make any difference to performance? As discussed previously, the throughput benchmark is sensitive to changes in the cost balance between offer/poll. The optimization creates an interesting change in the pattern of the results:
The benchmark is run on Ubuntu13.10/JDK7u45/i7@2.4, the x axis is the index of the benchmark run and the Y axis is the result in ops/sec. The chart displays the results for before the change (B-*) and after(A-*) with different sparse data settings. We can see the change has accelerated the consumer, leading to increased benefit from sparse data that was not visible before. With sparse data set to 1 the optimization results in a 2% increase in performance. Not mind blowing, but still. The same change applied to the producer thread loop (localizing the reference to the queue field) discussed in the previous post enabled a 10% difference in performance as the field reference stopped the loop from unrolling and was read on each iteration. I used the poll() example here because it involves allot less assembly code to wade through.

Hopefully this illustrates the issue to Mr. Shipilev's content. Thanks goes to Gil Tene for pointing out the optimization to me and to Chris Newland for JITWatch.


  1. Thanks Nitsan. I've been aware of this at the superstitious level of "if I read a field twice in hot code, best to take a local reference", but never taken the time to quantify the cost. You've tied it up nicely, with a bow.

    Now get drunk and rant yourself some more ideas.

    1. I have run out of whiskey... contributions are welcome :P

  2. How does one understand the barrier mechanism ? I know this is a deep question. But developers cannot easily understand this.

  3. Should re-run and update this with the latest Zing Falcon JIT results, which now does Truly Final field optimization.


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