[concurrency-interest] Latency in starting threads

David Holmes davidcholmes at aapt.net.au
Tue Apr 16 20:18:45 EDT 2013


It is perfected valid for t.start() to start and context switch to the new
thread. That is up to the OS scheduler.

Thread.join only indicates logical termination at the Java level. The native
thread will still have to exit at the VM level and OS level, both of which
can hit bottlenecks and cause unexpected numbers of threads to still be
active. That in turn can impact thread creation - which happens in start().

  -----Original Message-----
  From: concurrency-interest-bounces at cs.oswego.edu
[mailto:concurrency-interest-bounces at cs.oswego.edu]On Behalf Of Dr Heinz M.
  Sent: Wednesday, 17 April 2013 5:31 AM
  To: Nathan Reynolds
  Cc: concurrency-interest at cs.oswego.edu
  Subject: Re: [concurrency-interest] Latency in starting threads

  Right, I would not have sent a notifyAll() if it had just been 250ms for
the thread to wake up.  However, I was always under the wrong impression
that thread.start() would return pretty much immediately.  That is the slow
part, not the constructor call.  Try it out if you find a Mac OS X machine
with at least 1.7.0_06 on it.

  And just to eliminate any confusion - I waited for each thread to die
before I start the next one.  So we never have an excessively large number
of threads around at any one time.


Dr Heinz M. Kabutz (PhD CompSci)
Author of "The Java(tm) Specialists' Newsletter"
Sun Java Champion
IEEE Certified Software Development Professional
Tel: +30 69 75 595 262
Skype: kabutz

  Nathan Reynolds wrote:
    When I started reading your email, I figured you meant the time from
calling start() to the time the created thread actually started running.
I've seen this take a considerable amount of time on Windows XP (not 250
seconds though) and has to be considered if one is trying to account for
latency.  I was surprised to find that you meant the time for the
constructor and start() call itself.

    Nathan Reynolds | Architect | 602.333.9091
    Oracle PSR Engineering | Server Technology

    On 4/16/2013 5:54 AM, Dr Heinz M. Kabutz wrote:

      Good day my fellow concurrency enthusiasts!

      Yesterday, whilst teaching my Concurrency Specialist Course, I wanted
to demonstrate to my class how slow it was starting threads and how much
better it is to use a FixedThreadPool.  The question that I wanted to answer
was: How many microseconds does it take on average to start a simple thread
and what is the maximum time it could take?

      We all know that it can take in the milliseconds range to do the

      Thread t = new Thread(); // even without it actually doing anything

      This is one of the reasons why the fixed thread pool only starts the
threads as we submit jobs to it, since the up-front cost might not be worth
the wait.

      But how long do you think the *maximum* was that I had to wait for
t.start() to return?  100ms?  200ms?

      Actually, the longest I had to wait turned out to be about 250
seconds.  Yes.  That is *seconds*, not *milliseconds*.  Just to start a
single thread.

      This is most certainly a bug in the OpenJDK on Mac OS X.  We did not
see this behaviour on Linux nor on Windows 7.

      The bug started in OpenJDK 1.7.0_06.  Prior to that it hardly ever
took longer than 30ms to start a single thread.

      java version "1.7.0_05"
      heinz$ java ThreadLeakMac2
      time = 1, threads = 4
      time = 2, threads = 346
      time = 4, threads = 7378
      time = 7, threads = 9614
      time = 12, threads = 10027
      time = 14, threads = 10063
      time = 17, threads = 26965
      time = 38, threads = 27013
      time = 39, threads = 452053

      java version "1.7.0_06"
      heinz$ java ThreadLeakMac2
      time = 1, threads = 6
      time = 2, threads = 256
      time = 6, threads = 373
      time = 111, threads = 42592
      time = 200, threads = 49419
      time = 333, threads = 58976
      time = 3245, threads = 202336
      time = 3706, threads = 203702
      time = 5835, threads = 267872
      time = 6455, threads = 269238
      time = 9170, threads = 270603

      In my code, I make sure that the thread has stopped before creating
the next one by calling join().

      public class ThreadLeakMac2 {
         public static void main(String[] args) throws InterruptedException
             long threads = 0;
             long max = 0;
             while(true) {
                 long time = System.currentTimeMillis();
                 Thread thread = new Thread();
                 thread.start(); // should finish almost immediately
                 time = System.currentTimeMillis() - time;
                 thread.join(); // short delay, hopefully
                 if (time > max) {
                     max = time;
                     System.out.println("time = " + time + ", threads = " +

      This would be another nice test case for Alexey's concurrency stress
test harness.

      (I will also post this to the macosx-port-dev list.)



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