Using Reference Maps for Caches and Listeners

A while ago I wrote a blog post about the WeakHashMap. It then turned out that the WeakHashMap was not the optimal choice for that particular use case and I proposed a different solution. To make this a bit more seizable, I decided to implement a post a full code example. Let me again describe the use case.

Let's say you have a class wrapping some sort of event. Let's give the event class a name, write a Java interface and call it Auditable. Each Auditable subclass must implement two methods: validate and process. There is a invoker class called AuditableInvoker which receives a collection of Auditable's and invokes validate and process on each one of them. So far so good.

As an example, let's implement two Auditable subclasses which are pretty stupid. SleepingAuditable will just hold the current Thread for a few milliseconds. IteratingAuditable will run a small loop in it's validate and process methods.

In addition to that, there is a requirement that you need to know the execution time of the validate and process method in each Auditable subclass. Fortunately you can add listeners to AuditableInvoker. So all you have to do is to write a listener that measures the execution times. The listener need to start a stop watch before validate or process is invoked and stop this very stop watch after process and validate are finished. Once they are finished, the execution time can be computed and kept in a helper class that we call the StatsCollector. To keep things simple, our UnboundedStatsCollector will only increment a counter, completely ignoring the execution times.

The tricky part here is that you need to use the same stop watch before and after the invocations of an Auditable. A good use case for a map using weak referenced keys and object identity for comparison. Once an Auditable subclass has finished it's lifecycle and is no longer referenced somewhere else in the code, the garbage collection can collect the Auditable as well as the associated stop watch. This will prevent the Map from growing indefinitely. So here is a implementation using a ReferenceIdentityMap from the commons-collections project.

To verify that we really see the expected behavior, I have written a unit test that is stressing the ExecutionTimingAuditableLifecycleListener using multiple Threads. In this unit test I am re-using a class called MultithreadedStressTester which I stole from Nat Pryze's book "Growing Object Oriented Software guided by Tests".

The ExecutionTimingAuditableLifecycleListenerTest uses the MultithreadedStressTester to send a bunch of Threads over to the ExecutionTimingAuditableLifecycleListener, verifying that each invocation is properly timed using the ReferenceIdentityMap under the hood.

Finally, if you want to use google-guava instead of commons-collections, you can also use a LoadingCache with weak keys instead of the ReferenceIdentityMap. Here is a version of the ExecutionTimingAuditableLifecycleListener using google-guava.