Guide to using DoubleAdder class.

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The DoubleAdder class offers an alternative mechanism to using atomic classes or lock-based counters in situations where a variable is repeatedly updated to compute stats or summary counts. In such scenarios throughput suffers significantly when several threads attempt to update a single variable. In case of locks, threads get suspended and resumed while in case of atomic classes threads spin until successful. With DoubleAdder the idea is to have several variables that maintain the count in a thread-safe manner rather than a single variable, thus effectively reducing contention. Reducing contention improves throughput though at the cost of using more space.

The DoubleAdder class is very similar to LongAdder, in that both classes maintain a set of variables, of a package-private type java.util.concurrent.atomic.Striped64.Cell which is a variant of AtomicLong. As the number of threads manipulating an instance of DoubleAdder increases, this underlying table of Cells keeps growing upto the maximum number of CPUs. The long to double conversions are handled internally. The array of counts helps to spread contention among threads rather than all threads competing to increment/decrement a single instance.

When the cumulative or final count is desired, the sum() method can be invoked. Floating point arithmetic isn’t associative and when sum() is invoked it doesn’t guarantee the order in which the accumulation happens. This appears as a disclaimer in the class’s documentation stating The order of accumulation within or across threads is not guaranteed. Thus, this class may not be applicable if numerical stability is required, especially when combining values of substantially different orders of magnitude.. Additionally, sum() is not an atomic snapshot, and if concurrent updates by threads continue while sum() is executing, the newer updates may not be reflected in the result. However, when sum() is invoked in the absence of concurrent updates i.e. no thread is performing a write operation, then sum() returns an accurate result.

DoubleAdder should be used in scenarios where updates to an instance of DoubleAdder are frequent and reads are rare. For instance, calculating summary statistics where several threads update a common variable is a good candidate for use of DoubleAdder.


In the example below, we have ten threads that attempt to increment an instance of DoubleAdder by one a million times each. Though we don’t have an equivalent for double in the atomic classes but for purposes of our crude test, we use an AtomicLong that is also incremented by one and then time the two runs, one with AtomicLong and one with DoubleAdder. The test is setup so that the counter variables in both scenarios experience high contention and the results show that DoubleAdder outperforms AtomicLong.

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