Spin Loop Hint support: Draft JEP proposal

Gil Tene gil at azulsystems.com
Sun Oct 4 16:22:51 UTC 2015

I would like to circulate this draft JEP proposal for initial review and consensus building purposes.

I'm cross-posting to both core-libs-dev and hotspot-dev. From a spec perspective, the main change it suggests is the addition of a method (and probably a class to hold it) to the core libraries. And intrinsifying implementations would involve changes in HotSpot (see prototype WebRev links included below).

Draft JEP follows inline...

— Gil.

JEP XYZ: Spin Loop Hint

(suggested content for some JEP fields):
Authors	Gil Tene
Owner	Gil Tene
Type	Feature
Status	Draft
Component	core-libs
Scope	JDK
Discussion	core dash libs dash dev at openjdk dot java dot net
Effort	S
Duration	S


Add an API that would allow Java code to hint that a spin loop is being executed.


Provide an API that would allow Java code to hint to the runtime that it is in a spin loop. The API would be a pure hint, and will carry no semantic behavior requirements (i.e. a no-op is a valid implementation). Allow the JVM to benefit from spin loop specific behaviors that may be useful on certain hardware platforms. Provide both a no-op implementation and an intrinsic implementation in the JDK, and demonstrate an execution benefit on at least one major hardware platform.


It is NOT a goal to look at performance hints beyond spin loops. Other performance hints, such as prefetch hints, are outside the scope of this JEP.


Some hardware platforms benefit from software indication that a spin loop is in progress. Some common execution benefits may be observed:

A) The reaction time of a spin loop may be improved when a spin hint is used due to various factors, reducing thread-to-thread latencies in spinning wait situations.


B) The power consumed by the core or hardware thread involved in the spin loop may be reduced, benefitting overall power consumption of a program, and possibly allowing other cores or hardware threads to execute at faster speeds within the same power consumption envelope.

While long term spinning is often discouraged as a general user-mode programming practice, short term spinning prior to blocking is a common practice (both inside and outside of the JDK). Furthermore, as core-rich computing platforms are commonly available, many performance and/or latency sensitive applications use a pattern that dedicates a spinning thread to a latency critical function [1], and may involve long term spinning as well.

As a practical example and use case, current x86 processors support a PAUSE instruction that can be used to indicate spinning behavior. Using a PAUSE instruction demonstrably reduces thread-to-thread round trips. Due to it's benefits and commonly recommended use, the x86 PAUSE instruction is commonly used in kernel spinlocks, in POSIX libraries that perform heuristic spins prior to blocking, and even by the JVM itself. However, due to the inability to hint that a Java loop is spinning, it's benefits are not available to regular Java code.

We include specific supporting evidence: In simple tests [2] performed on a E5-2697 v2, measuring the round trip latency behavior between two threads that communicate by spinning on a volatile field, round-trip latencies were demonstrably reduced by 18-20nsec across a wide percentile spectrum (from the 10%'ile to the 99.9%'ile). This reduction can represent an improvement as high as 35%-50% in best-case thread-to-thread communication latency. E.g. when two spinning threads execute on two hardware threads that share a physical CPU core and an L1 data cache. See example latency measurement results comparing the reaction latency of a spin loop that includes an intrinsified spinLoopHint() call [intrinsified as a PAUSE instruction] to the same loop executed without using a PAUSE instruction [3], along with the measurements of the it takes to perform an actual System.nantoTime() call to measure time.


We propose to add a method to the JDK which would be hint that a spin loop is being performed. E.g. jdk.util.PerformanceHints.spinLoopHint(), which will hopefully evolve to a Java SE API, e.g. java.util.PerformanceHints.spinLoopHint(). The specific name space location, class name, and method name will be determined as part of development of this JEP.

An empty method would be a valid implementation of the spinLoopHint() method, but intrisic implementation is the obvious goal for hardware platforms that can benefit from it. We intend to produce an intrinsic x86 implementation for OpenJDK as part of developing this JEP. A prototype implementation already exists [4] [5] [6] [7] and results from initial testing show promise.


JNI can be used to spin loop with a spin-loop-hinting CPU instruction, but the JNI-boundary crossing overhead tends to be larger than the benefit provided by the instruction, at least where latency is concerned.

We could attempt to have the JIT compilers deduce spin-loop situations and code and choose to automatically include a spin-loop-hinting CPU instructions with no Java code hints required. We expect that the complexity of automatically and reliably detecting spinning situations, coupled with questions about potential tradeoffs in using the hints on some platform to delay the availability of viable implementations significantly.


Testing of a "vanilla" no-op implementation will obviously be fairly simple.

We believe that given the vey small footprint of this API, testing of an intrinsified x86 implementation in OpenJDK will also be straightforward. We expect testing to focus on confirming both the code generation correctness and latency benefits of using the spin loop hint with an intrinsic implementation.

Should this API be proposed as a Java SE API (e.g. for inclusion in the java.* namespace in a future Java SE 9 or Java SE 10), we expect to develop an associated TCK tests for the API for potential inclusion in the Java SE TCK.

Risks and Assumptions

The "vanilla" no-op implementation is obviously fairly low risk. An intrinsic x86 implementation will involve modifications to multiple JVM components and as such they carry some risks, but no more than other simple intrinsics added to the JDK.

[1] The LMAX Disruptor https://lmax-exchange.github.io/disruptor/ <https://lmax-exchange.github.io/disruptor/>
[2] https://github.com/giltene/GilExamples/tree/master/SpinHintTest <https://github.com/giltene/GilExamples/tree/master/SpinHintTest>
[3] Chart depicting SpinLoopHint intrinsification impact https://github.com/giltene/GilExamples/blob/master/SpinHintTest/SpinLoopLatency_E5-2697v2_sharedCore.png <https://github.com/giltene/GilExamples/blob/master/SpinHintTest/SpinLoopLatency_E5-2697v2_sharedCore.png>
[4] HotSpot WebRevs for prototype implementation which intrinsifies org.performancehintsSpinHint.spinLoopHint() http://ivankrylov.github.io/spinloophint/webrev/ <http://ivankrylov.github.io/spinloophint/webrev/>
[5] JDK WebRevs for prototype intrinsifying implementation: http://ivankrylov.github.io/spinloophint/webrev.jdk/ <http://ivankrylov.github.io/spinloophint/webrev.jdk/>
[6] Build environment WebRevs for prototype intrinsifying implementation: http://ivankrylov.github.io/spinloophint/webrev.main/ <http://ivankrylov.github.io/spinloophint/webrev.main/>
[7] Link to a working Linux protoype OpenJDK9-based JDK (accepts optional -XX:+UseSpinLoopHintIntrinsic) https://www.dropbox.com/s/r2w1s1jykr2qs01/slh-openjdk-9-b70-bin-linux-x64.tar.gz?dl=0 <https://www.dropbox.com/s/r2w1s1jykr2qs01/slh-openjdk-9-b70-bin-linux-x64.tar.gz?dl=0>

More information about the core-libs-dev mailing list