I will soon be releasing the first alpha on JBoss Cache 3.0.0 - codenamed Naga after the Naga Jolokia pepper, naturally keeping with the pepper-naming theme. This is an alpha and doesn't nearly have all of what the GA release will have, but it does have two very significant features which I would like to share with the world. One is MVCC, and the other is a new configuration file format - which I've left for Mircea Markus to talk about in his post.
UPDATE: This has now been released. See my post on the release.
So on with MVCC. This is something people have been waiting for, for a long while now. Historic locking schemes - pessimistic locking and optimistic locking - have always been somewhat slow, inefficient, and synchronization-heavy. So we've redesigned concurrency and locking in the cache from scratch and have MVCC. Our designs for MVCC have been online for a while now. I do need to update the design page with more implementation details though, which did differ slightly from the original designs.
In a nutshell, MVCC is a new locking scheme (MultiVersion Concurrency Control, something that most good database implementations have been using for a while now). our implementation is particularly interesting in that it is completely lock-free for readers. This makes it very efficient for a read-mostly system like a cache. The summary of features are:
- Writers don't block readers. At all.
- Completely lock-free for readers.
- Writers are fail-fast (so no DataVersionExceptions at commit time, like when using our old Optimistic Locking implementation)
- Deadlock-safe (thanks to non-blocking readers)
- Memory efficient since we use lock striping (for writer locks) rather than one-lock-per-node.
- Write locks implemented using the JDK's AbstractQueuedSynchronizer - which makes it free of implicit locks and synchronized blocks.
- Locks held on Fqns and not Nodes. Which solves problems with concurrent create-and-removes seen occasionally with Pessimistic Locking under high load.
Switching it on
In the upcoming alpha, you enable this by setting your node locking scheme to MVCC:
Configuration c = new Configuration(); c.setNodeLockingScheme(Configuration.NodeLockingScheme.MVCC);
MVCC allows two isolation levels - READ_COMMITTED and REPEATABLE_READ. All other isolation levels - if configured - will be upgraded or downgraded accordingly. There are a further two configuration elements for MVCC: concurrencyLevel and writeSkewCheck.
Concurrency level is a tuning parameter that helps determine the number of segments used when creating a collection of shared locks for all writers. This is similar to the concurrencyLevel parameter passed in to the JDK's ConcurrentHashMap constructor. Unlike CHMs, this defaults to 50 - and should be tuned accordingly. Bigger = greater concurrency but more memory usage - thanks to additional segments.
A write skew is a condition where with REPEATABLE_READ semantics, a transaction reads a value, and then changes to to something based on what was read, but another thread had changed it between the two operations. Consider:
// start transaction
line 1: int counterValue = readSomething();
line 2: writeSomething(counterValue + 1);
// end transaction
Since MVCC offers concurrent reads and writes, thread T1 could be at line 1, another thread (T2) could be at line 2 updating the value after T1 has read it. Then when T1 comes to writing the value, this would overwrite the update that T2 had made. This is a write-skew.
Now depending on your application, you may not care about such overwrites, and hence by default we don't do anything about it and allow the overwrite to continue. However, there are still plenty of cases where write skews are bad. If the writeSkewCheck configuration parameter is set to true, an exception is thrown every time a write skew is detected. So in the above example, when T1 attempts to writeSomething(), an exception will be thrown forcing T1 to retry its transaction.
What about other locking schemes?
With our final release, we hope to make MVCC the default option. Optimistic and Pessimistic locking will still be available but deprecated, and will be removed in a future release based on the success of MVCC.
Great! Where can I get it?
I will announce the release on this blog soon. Once the release is available, please download it and try it out - feedback is very important, especially in highly concurrent environments under a lot of stress.
If you are that impatient, you're welcome to check out JBoss Cache core trunk from SVN and have a play-around. :-)