Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Jayaram Krishnaswamy, Derek Weeks, Anders Wallgren

Related Topics: Java IoT, Industrial IoT, Microservices Expo, Open Source Cloud, IoT User Interface, Recurring Revenue

Java IoT: Blog Post

A Painless Introduction to Java’s ThreadLocal Storage

Best practices for using another powerful class: ThreadLocal from java.lang

In my last blog, we explored WeakHashMap which is based by WeakReference in Java. Now let's look at some best practices for using another powerful class: ThreadLocal from java.lang, which is also implemented using WeakReference.

What is ThreadLocal? A simple example
As its name suggests, a single instance of ThreadLocal can store different values for each thread independently. Therefore, the value stored in a ThreadLocal instance is specific (local) to the current running Thread, any other code logic running on the same thread will see the same value, but not the values set on the same instance by other threads. (There are exceptions, like InhertiableThreadLocal, which inherits parent thread's values by default.)

Let's consider this example:

We have a TransactionManager class that provide static methods to:

  • Start a transaction with a generated ID
  • Store that ID as a static field and provide a transaction ID getter method to other code logic that needs to know the current transaction ID.

In a single threaded environment, TransactionManager can simply store the ID as a static field and return as is. However, this will certainly not work in a multiple-threaded environment. Imagine multiple threads are using TransactionManager - transaction IDs generated by each thread can overwrite each other as there is only one static instance of transaction ID. One may synchronize and block other transactions to avoid overwrites, but this would totally defeat the purpose of having multiple threads.

In order to solve this problem, ThreadLocal provides a very neat solution:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 public class TransactionManager { private static final ThreadLocal<String> context = new ThreadLocal<String>(); public static void startTransaction() { //logic to start a transaction //... context.set(generatedId); } public static String getTransactionId() { return context.get(); } public static void endTransaction() { //logic to end a transaction //... context.remove(); } }

Different thread that starts transactions via TransactionManager will get its own transaction ID stored in the context. Any logic within the same thread can call getTransactionId() later on to retrieve the value belongs/local to that Thread. So problem's solved!

The Internals of ThreadLocal and How it Works

Let's drill down a little bit into the ThreadLocal's internals. ThreadLocal is implemented by having a Map (a ThreadLocalMap) as field (with WeakReference entry) within each Thread instance. (There are actually 2 maps; the second one is used for InheritabeleThreadLocal, but let's not complicate the picture). The keys of those maps are the corresponding ThreadLocals themselves. Therefore, when a set/get is called on a ThreadLocal, it looks at the current thread, find the map, and look up the value with "this" ThreadLocal instance.

Still confused? I certainly am. Let's look at a real example.

  • Code running in Thread 1 calls set() on ThreadLocal instance "A" with value "123″
  • Code running in Thread 2 calls set() on ThreadLocal instance "A" with value "234″
  • Code running in Thread 1 calls set() on ThreadLocal instance "B" with value "345″

And this is the end result:

Thread 1 (the instance)'s field ThreadLocalMap (m1) has 2 entries:

KeyValue
ThreadLocal A "123″
ThreadLocal B "345″

Thread 2 (the instance)'s field ThreadLocalMap (m2) has 1 entry:

KeyValue
ThreadLocal A "234″

Now if some code logic in Thread 1 calls get() on ThreadLocal instance "A", the ThreadLocal logic will lookup the current Thread, which is instance Thread 1, then access the field ThreadLocalMap of that Thread instance, which is m1, it can then lookup the value by using m1.get(this), with "this" as ThreadLocal and the result is "123″

Now what to watch out for!
Did I hear weak reference for ThreadLocal entries? Does that mean I don't have to clean up? Well, it's not quite that simple.

First of all, the value object put into the ThreadLocal would not purge itself (garbage collected) if there are no more Strong references to it. Instead, the Weak reference is done on the thread instance, which means Java garbage collection would clean up the ThreadLocal map if the thread itself is not strongly referenced elsewhere.

So now the question is: when would the Thread object get garbage collected?

The answer is: it depends, but always assume the thread is long running. 2 common examples:

  • Servlets. The threads that handle servlet requests usually stay alive in the container for the lifetime of the server instance. Code logic that uses ThreadLocal might be referenced indirectly by servlets.
  • Thread pooling java.util.concurrent.Executors. Java encourages recycling threads!

A typical usage of Executor introduced in Java 1.5, if ThreadLocal maps are not cleaned up properly after a transaction is done, next TransactionProcessingTask might inherit values from another previous unrelated task!

1 2 ExecutorService service = Executors.newFixedThreadPool(10); service.submit(new TransactionProcessingTask());

Be careful with initialization of ThreadLocal, below is an implementation of a counter by Thread. Can you tell what is wrong in the below initialzation?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 public class Counter { private static ThreadLocal<Integer> counter = new ThreadLocal<Integer>(); static { counter.set(0); } public int getCountInThread() { return counter.get(); } //.... }

The counter would not get initialized correctly! Though the counter is declared as static, it CANNOT be initialized by having a static initializer, as the initializer only runs once when the first thread references the Counter class. When the second thread comes in, it does not run counter.set(0) on that thread, therefore counter.get() returns null instead of 0! One solution is to sublcass ThreadLocal and override the initialValue() method to assign non-null initial value.

With these in mind, you can probably picture the consequences of not cleaning up after ourselves! An operation that runs on a recycled thread might inherit the values from previous operation on the same thread! Besides, it can also cause memory leaks as the instance stored in ThreadLocal will never get garbage collected if the thread is alive.

As a rule of thumb, always clean up/reset your threadlocal after you have finished your "unit of operation"! Even though the current code might be simple enough to bypass the cleanups, it might be adapted and integrated into servlets/thread pooling later on! After all, cleaning up responsibly is always appreciated both in the realms of programming and real life.

More Stories By Patson Luk

A Java developer who has spent the better part of the last decade working on financial services applications with companies from HSBC to Mobilearth and Parasoft, Patson is experienced in various aspects of computer systems, from large scale enterprise banking system to lightweight mobile payment solutions. He now leads Java instrumentation and tool development for the TraceView product at AppNeta. Patson's focus is on using java bytecode manipulation technologies to gain greater visibility into the full spectrum of Java based technologies. This includes higher level application frameworks from Spring and Struts to Webflow, AppServers from TomCat to JBoss, and Databases from MySQL to Oracle. He's also writes frequently on the AppNeta blog - www.appneta.com/blog

@ThingsExpo Stories
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including cloud...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, will discuss how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technol...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified – now it's a component-based well-performing framework. This immersive one-day workshop at 18th Cloud Expo, led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay, will provide you with everything you wanted to know about Angular 2.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...