Synchronization and concurrency
Deadlock (and avoiding it)
Java 5: ConcurrentHashMap
The volatile keyword in Java 5
We've so far seen that a volatile variable is essentially one whose value is always held in main memory so that it can be accessed by different threads. Java 5 adds a subtle change to this definition and adds some additional facilities for manipulating volatile variables.
Java 5 definition of volatile
As of Java 5, accessing a volatile variable creates a memory barrier: it effectively synchronizes all cached copies of variables with main memory, just as entering or exiting a synchronized block that synchronizes on a given object. Generally, this doesn't have a big impact on the programmer, although it does occasionally make volatile a good option for safe object publication. The infamous double-checked locking antipattern actually becomes valid in Java 5 if the reference is declared volatile. (See the page on how to fix double-checked locking for an example.) And volatiles memory synchronization behaviour has occasionally allowed more efficient design in some of the library classes via a technique dubbed synchronization 'piggybacking'.
New Java 5 functionality for volatile variables
Perhaps more significant for most programmers is that as of Java 5, the VM exposes some additional functionality for accessing volatile variables:
These facilities are tucked away inside the sun.misc.Unsafe class1, but exposed to the programmer in the form of various new concurrency classes:
On the following pages, we look at:
1. This is clearly a detail of Sun's implementation; other JVMs could in principle implement the atomic classes without having a separate layer such as sun.misc.Unsafe.
Copyright © Neil Coffey 2013. All rights reserved.