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

David Holmes David.Holmes at
Thu Apr 7 23:19:57 UTC 2011

Hi Stuart,

I can't answer your specific questions as I'm not familiar with the RMI 
infrastructure either. Taking the lock in writeObject and moving 
group.unregister out of the sync block to avoid deadlock seems 
reasonable. The main question to ask with such a move is whether the 
temporary inconsistency in state is something that can be observed and 
cause a problem.

The lock ordering analysis seems reasonable.

I do note that the startupLock protocol seems suspicious as there is a 
race with detection of the lock value. I assume init itself can never be 
invoked by more than one thread ;-) It may be that the object can only 
become accessible concurrently at some time during init (ie it gets 
published) in which case the protocol will work fine - but you really 
need a full understanding of the lifecycle of the objects to determine that.

That aside, using ConcurrentHashMap would simplify the solution to the 
current problem. If you are concerned about the serialized form then you 
could define writeObject and readObject such that they convert between 
CHM and plain HM using the serialized-fields API.


Stuart Marks said the following on 04/08/11 08:19:
> 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 acceptable.
> 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. :-)
> Questions:
> 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.
> s'marks

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