RFR: 8013395 StringBuffer.toString performance regression impacting embedded benchmarks

David Schlosnagle schlosna at gmail.com
Fri May 10 06:39:35 UTC 2013

One other quick comment, if the toStringCache is non-null during invocation
of toString(), that seems to imply that the StringBuffer/StringBuilder has
not been mutated since the last invocation of toString(), is there any
reason to still use the String copy constructor? This would address the
http://bugs.sun.com/bugdatabase/view_bug.do?bug_id=6239985 portion of

For example, I'd envisage in AbstractStringBuilder (assuming previous
comments of pushing toStringCache from StringBuffer to

    public String toString() {
        if (toStringCache == null) {
            toStringCache = new String(value, 0, count);
        return toStringCache;

- Dave

On Fri, May 10, 2013 at 2:25 AM, David Schlosnagle <schlosna at gmail.com>wrote:

> Hi David,
> Would it be beneficial to push the toStringCache up to
> AbstractStringBuilder so that StringBuilder.toString() benefits from this
> cache as well? It seems like this would affect both StringBuilder and
> StringBuffer for repeated calls to toString(), although StringBuffer would
> obviously have the synchronization overhead as well (assuming the locking
> is not elided away by HotSpot).
> Thanks,
> Dave
> On Fri, May 10, 2013 at 2:03 AM, David Holmes <david.holmes at oracle.com>wrote:
>> Short version:
>> Cache the value returned by toString and use it to copy-construct a new
>> String on subsequent calls to toString(). Clear the cache on any mutating
>> operation.
>> webrev: http://cr.openjdk.java.net/~**dholmes/8013395/webrev.v2/<http://cr.openjdk.java.net/~dholmes/8013395/webrev.v2/>
>> Testing: microbenchmark for toString performance; new regression test for
>> correctness; JPRT testset core as a sanity check
>> Still TBD - full SE benchmark (?)
>> Thanks,
>> David
>> ---------
>> Long version:
>> One of the goals for JDK8 is to provide a path from Java ME CDC to Java
>> SE (or SE Embedded). In the embedded space some pretty old benchmarks still
>> get used for doing comparisons between JRE's. One of which makes heavy use
>> of StringBuffer.toString, without modifying the StringBuffer in between.
>> Up to Java 1.4.2 a StringBuffer and a String could share the underlying
>> char[]. This meant that toString simply needed to create a new String that
>> referenced the StringBuffer's char[] with no copying of the array needed.
>> In Java 5 the String/StringBuffer implementations were completely revised:
>> StringBuilder was introduced for non-synchronized use, and a new
>> AbstractStringBuilder base class added for it and StringBuffer. In that
>> implementation toString now has to copy the StringBuffer's char[]. This
>> resulted in a significant performance regression for toString() and a bug -
>> 6219959 - was opened. There is quite an elaborate evaluation in that bug
>> report but bottom line was that "real code doesn't depend on this - won't
>> fix".
>> At some stage ME also updated to the new Java 5 code and they also
>> noticed the problem. As a result CDC6 included a variation of the caching
>> strategy that is proposed here.
>> Going forward because we want people to be able to compare ME and SE with
>> their familiar benchmarks, we would like to address this corner case and
>> fix it using the caching strategy outlined. As a data point an 8K
>> StringBuffer that takes ~1ms to be converted to a String initially, can
>> process subsequent toString() calls in a few microseconds. So that
>> performance issue is addressed.
>> However we've added a write to a field in all the mutating methods which
>> obviously adds some additional computational effort - though I have no
>> doubt it is lost in the noise for all but the smallest of mutating methods.
>> Even so this should be run against regular SE benchmarks to ensure there
>> are no performance regressions there - so if anyone has a suggestion as to
>> the best benchmark to run to exercise StringBuffer (if it exists), please
>> let me know.
>> Thanks for reading this far :)

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