VarHandles & LMAX Disruptor

Michael Barker mikeb01 at
Mon Jul 27 21:35:11 UTC 2015

> I believe code in RingBuffer was using Unsafe to avoid bounds checks,
> correct? if so I wonder if the patch in
> would help with strength
> reducing such checks? I don’t know if that patch also works with a constant
> offset as used in RingBufferFields, but it should work for
> MultiProducerSequencer. The patch should apply cleanly to the VarHandles
> branch in the sandbox if you want to try it out.

Sounds interesting, I'll have a look.  Bounds checks weren't at the top of
the list for using the Unsafe.  We had already started using it for other
reasons and made use of that particular optimisation because we could.

A little bit of history around the Disruptor and Unsafe, the main reason I
started using Unsafe wasn't to do with performance, but "observed"
stability.  I found on some JVMs APIs like AtomicIntFieldUpdater were less
stable on some JVMs than Unsafe.  For example on one JVM the JIT didn't
treat accesses through a field updater as volatile and would apply
optimisations like hoisting from loops which would broke the code.  The 10%
to 20% performance boost was a nice side benefit.

My personal speculation is that most Java licensees reuse the
java.util.concurrent library code and provide a decent implementation of
Unsafe to make it work, rather than port to their own set of JVM
intrinsics.  Because of this Unsafe seems to work pretty well on most
JVMs.  I'm hopeful that java.util.concurrent will be ported across to
VarHandles too as it will encourage JVM vendors to have an efficient and
stable implementation of VarHandles.

> Ideally what you also need is a public equivalent of @Contended that also
> supports arrays, that would make the code a little cleaner, but would be a
> separate project :-)

That would be nice.  One of the other things that is lost with removing the
Unsafe is getting the array padding at the ends of array correct.  The
stuff that I removed used the Unsafe to determine the size of the object
reference, which was used to calculate the number of entries required to
pad the real data.  Now I just pick a value and hope.


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