class SplittableRandom

Doug Lea dl at
Sat Jul 13 13:22:37 UTC 2013

(Sorry to postpone answering this one while tied up in logistics...)

On 07/11/13 08:23, Aleksey Shipilev wrote:
> On 07/11/2013 04:16 PM, Doug Lea wrote:
>> (I've been contemplating re-exploring alternatives in TLR,
>> but the options are more limited because it is a subclass
>> of Random. Which made sense at the time I did it, but ...)
> What exactly limits us to adopt the PRNG from SR into TLR, thus gaining
> the same good statistical properties? Does extending Random actually
> forces us to match the PRNG j.u.Random has? It does not seem likely if
> we don't control the seed for TLR anyway.

There are two different questions here:

1. Why a new API / class?

SplittableRandom takes a form that we are likely to see more
of as we improve support for structured parallelism:

   pseudo-interface SplittableGenerator<T> {
     T generate();
     SplittableGenerator<T> split();

As opposed to ThreadLocalRandom's form:

   pseudo-interface PerThreadGenerator<T> {
     T generate() {
        // lazily construct and use a thread-local instance

As I've mentioned, each form is useful, but there's
little overlap in the contexts in which they are useful.
While you can emulate the effects of one with the other,
it's not at all pretty or efficient. Without an explicit call
to split(), the thread-local form would need some side-channel to
construct an instance of known form (rather than default-initialize).
Conversely, without automated thread-local-ness, you'd need
some other means of sharing use of the same instance
in different parts of a program running in the same thread,
and may encounter variants of memory locality/contention
we've seen.

One underlying motivation for introducing SplittableRandom
in JDK8 is to establish and get some usage experience with
generators of this form, while at the same time addressing a
known gap in support for using random streams.

2. Can/should we improve ThreadLocalRandom?

Probably yes. The ThreadLocalRandom javadocs/specs don't
themselves promise that they use the same base generator
algorithm as java.util.Random. When TLR was introduced
in JDK7, it was a judgement call to make it identical
to java.util.Random except for the the thread-local-ness,
maintaining the same speed/quality tradeoffs.
java.util.Random's algorithm does have known weaknesses,
but it is far from the worst choice. So it is not all
that terrible that java.util.Random specs mandate use
of this algorithm. But for TLR, we should re-explore
options. The algorithm underlying SplittableRandom
(minus everything surrounding splits) is one possible

Since nothing else depends on these internals, so long as
they don't lose RNG quality or noticeably impact
performance, we can look into this during the
performance/functionality improvement phase of OpenJDK8.


More information about the core-libs-dev mailing list