Explicit Condition Objects

Explicit Condition Objects

As we saw in Chapter 13, explicit Locks can be useful in some situations where intrinsic locks are too inflexible. Just as Lock is a generalization of intrinsic locks, Condition (see Listing 14.10) is a generalization of intrinsic condition queues.

Intrinsic condition queues have several drawbacks. Each intrinsic lock can have only one associated condition queue, which means that in classes like BoundedBuffer multiple threads might wait on the same condition queue for different condition predicates, and the most common pattern for locking involves exposing the condition queue object. Both of these factors make it impossible to enforce the uniform waiter requirement for using notifyAll. If you want to write a concurrent object with multiple condition predicates, or you want to exercise more control over the visibility of the condition queue, the explicit Lock and Condition classes offer a more flexible alternative to intrinsic locks and condition queues.

A Condition is associated with a single Lock, just as a condition queue is associated with a single intrinsic lock; to create a Condition, call Lock.newCondition on the associated lock. And just as Lock offers a richer feature set than intrinsic locking, Condition offers a richer feature set than intrinsic condition queues: multiple wait sets per lock, interruptible and uninterruptible condition waits, deadline-based waiting, and a choice of fair or nonfair queueing.

Listing 14.10. Condition Interface.

public interface Condition {
    void await() throws InterruptedException;
    boolean await(long time, TimeUnit unit)
            throws InterruptedException;
    long awaitNanos(long nanosTimeout) throws InterruptedException;
    void awaitUninterruptibly();
    boolean awaitUntil(Date deadline) throws InterruptedException;

    void signal();
    void signalAll();

Unlike intrinsic condition queues, you can have as many Condition objects per Lock as you want. Condition objects inherit the fairness setting of their associated Lock; for fair locks, threads are released from Condition.await in FIFO order.

Hazard warning: The equivalents of wait, notify, and notifyAll for Condition objects are await, signal, and signalAll. However, Condition extends Object, which means that it also has wait and notify methods. Be sure to use the proper versionsawait and signalinstead!

Listing 14.11 shows yet another bounded buffer implementation, this time using two Conditions, notFull and notEmpty, to represent explicitly the "not full" and "not empty" condition predicates. When take blocks because the buffer is empty, it waits on notEmpty, and put unblocks any threads blocked in take by signaling on notEmpty.

The behavior of ConditionBoundedBuffer is the same as BoundedBuffer, but its use of condition queues is more readableit is easier to analyze a class that uses multiple Conditions than one that uses a single intrinsic condition queue with multiple condition predicates. By separating the two condition predicates into separate wait sets, Condition makes it easier to meet the requirements for single notification. Using the more efficient signal instead of signalAll reduces the number of context switches and lock acquisitions triggered by each buffer operation.

Just as with built-in locks and condition queues, the three-way relationship among the lock, the condition predicate, and the condition variable must also hold when using explicit Locks and Conditions. The variables involved in the condition predicate must be guarded by the Lock, and the Lock must be held when testing the condition predicate and when calling await and signal.[11]

[11] ReentrantLock requires that the Lock be held when calling signal or signalAll, but Lock implementations are permitted to construct Conditions that do not have this requirement.

Choose between using explicit Conditions and intrinsic condition queues in the same way as you would choose between ReentrantLock and synchronized: use Condition if you need its advanced features such as fair queueing or multiple wait sets per lock, and otherwise prefer intrinsic condition queues. (If you already use ReentrantLock because you need its advanced features, the choice is already made.)

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