Weak references to hidden classes - should be the default?

John Rose john.r.rose at oracle.com
Wed Mar 11 04:55:59 UTC 2020


I agree with Alex.  Class loaders map names to classes.  It’s not
natural *semantically* for a nameless class to have its lifetime
determined by a class loader.  It may be more natural *in our
JVM implementation* (hence more performant, in the *current*
implementation) to have a non-weak link, but let’s do this only
if users request it explicitly.

On Mar 10, 2020, at 4:55 PM, Mandy Chung <mandy.chung at oracle.com> wrote:
> 
> Brian, John, et al,
> 
> Alex has given his feedback on the weak class feature (attached).
> 
> Alex recommends to change the default of hidden classes be weak classes and introduce a ClassOption::STRONG option if it wants to ensure that the hidden class is not being reclaimed until the class loader becomes unreachable.  See more details below.
> 
> We tried to keep a hidden class be a normal class from JVM's point of view.  Classes in the VM implementation have the same lifecycle as the defining class loader.  In addition, LambdaForms and Nashorn are the only JDK use of hidden weak classes.  All others such as lambda metafactory and string concat use hidden (strong) classes as they are part of the target class' internal implementation and should be unloaded altogether.  Hence strong reference to hidden classes is the default.
> 
> What's your recommendation?
> 
> Mandy
> 
> 
> -------- Forwarded Message --------
> Subject:	Weak references to hidden classes
> Date:	Tue, 10 Mar 2020 16:16:50 -0700
> From:	Alex Buckley <alex.buckley at oracle.com> <mailto:alex.buckley at oracle.com>
> Organization:	Oracle Corporation
> To:	Mandy Chung <mandy.chung at oracle.com> <mailto:mandy.chung at oracle.com>
> 
> JEP 371 says that a hidden class may be weakly referenced by its class loader. Which loader? The only loader with any connection to a hidden class is the loader nominated to serve as the defining loader by the API spec of defineHiddenClass. However, that spec doesn't say "The defining loader holds a strong reference to the hidden class" because no spec says anything about how a class loader refers to a class.
> 
> (The only relationship we do specify is the other way around -- ClassLoader says "Every Class object contains a reference to the ClassLoader that defined it." -- and happily that relationship holds for a hidden class too.)
> 
> Point is, it's odd for defineHiddenClass to standardize how a class loader refers to a hidden class when, conceptually, class loaders are not meant to "know" about hidden classes.
> 
> (The connection between a defining loader and a hidden class is a mere accounting trick done to support the hidden class's own code. No class loader, not even that defining loader, knows how to respond to a class load request for the hidden class.)
> 
> It's especially odd for defineHiddenClass's default to be a strong reference. That default aligns with ClassLoader::defineClass, the API we're trying to avoid, and doesn't align with Unsafe::defineAnonymousClass, the API we're trying to recreate!
> 
> I understand there are performance reasons to want a loader to use a strong reference rather than a weak reference. Accepting that claim, I recommend having the implementation use a weak reference by default, having the spec allow that, then introducing ClassOption.STRONG to force a strong reference. That is, specify that:
> 
> "In the absence of an option, the defining loader's relationship with the hidden class is unspecified, and the loader implementation may use a strong reference or a weak reference to keep track of the hidden class. If a hidden class is not strongly referenced by the class loader which is deemed to be its defining loader, then the hidden class can be unloaded when library code no longer refers to it. Library developers who wish to prevent the hidden class from being unloaded must ensure that its Class object is never reclaimed, or else use the ClassOption.STRONG option."
> 
> I understand there is a concern that developers would not realize / be surprised by getting a weak reference as the default implementation. However, the planet-wide audience for defineHiddenClass is perhaps 500 developers. They already have to know what they're doing because the features of hidden classes are already more limited than the features of VM-anonymous classes., e.g., no constant pool patching. The usual "Java should save developers from making silly mistakes" rule doesn't apply here.
> 
> Alex



More information about the valhalla-dev mailing list