advice & review requested for 6896297, race condition in rmid causing JCK failure

Stuart Marks stuart.marks at
Thu Apr 7 22:19:19 UTC 2011

Hi Core-Libs developers,

I'd like to solicit some advice and discussion about this bug and a potential 
fix I'm cooking for it. Here is the bug report; it contains details about the 
problem and my analysis of it:

and here's a webrev of the fix I'm working on:

Briefly, the problem is incorrect synchronization of groupTable, a HashMap 
field of an Activation object. The code mostly locks groupTable around any 
access to it. However, no such locking is done during serialization. If the 
groupTable is modified while it's being serialized, 
ConcurrentModificationException occurs.

The obvious fix would be to use ConcurrentHashMap instead of Hashmap and to 
remove the external locking entirely. Unfortunately this will change the 
serialized representation of the Activation object, which I'm not sure is 

Assuming that we can't change the serialized represenation, the alternative 
approach would be to make sure that locking is done properly during 
serialization. This is fairly easy to do by locking groupTable in a 
writeObject() method. Unfortunately, this introduces a deadlock.

This deadlock occurs because, with this modification, there are now paths 
through the code that take locks in the opposite order. Specifically, the 
addLogRecord() method locks the log object and then (via serialization and the 
newly added writeObject() method) locks groupTable. However, the 
unregisterGroup() method locks groupTable and calls 
GroupEntry.unregisterGroup() which logs the event, which takes a lock on the log.

After some analysis, I've determined that the call to 
GroupEntry.unregisterGroup() can be moved outside the synchronization of 
groupTable. This removes the ordering problem.

With these fixes in place (the state of the webrev above) I can get several 
hundred successful test runs with neither ConcurrentModificationException nor 
any deadlocks.

Of course, that doesn't mean the change is correct. :-)


1. Is there a requirement that the serialized form of Activation remain 
unchanged? If we can change it, we might as well just use ConcurrentHashMap 
instead of HashMap.

2. Is my lock ordering analysis correct? I've pored over the code, but not 
really being familiar with any RMI concepts, I'm not sure I have it right. I've 
written this analysis into a big comment I've added to the code.

3. There is also a potential concurrency issue with idTable, which is used 
similarly to groupTable. I haven't seen a test failure from it though. It seems 
sensible to add a lock for it in Activation.writeObject() though. I don't 
particularly like nesting the locks of idTable and groupTable, but locking them 
separately would require serializing the Activation object field by field 
instead of simply using defaultWriteObject(). Is this a reasonable approach?

Thanks for any advice or comments.


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