Frequent allocations / promotions of StringCoding$String{Encoder,Decoder} objects

Tony Printezis tprintezis at
Thu Feb 25 20:48:04 UTC 2016

Hi all,

We recently noticed that in several of our production services there are very frequent allocations / promotions of coder objects from the StringCoding class (e.g. java.lang.StringCoding$String{Encoder,Decoder} instances). We are pretty sure that these are allocated to replace the coders cached in the StringCoding ThreadLocals (we also see SoftReferences being allocated / promoted along with the coder objects):

    /** The cached coders for each thread */
    private final static ThreadLocal<SoftReference<StringDecoder>> decoder =
        new ThreadLocal<>();
    private final static ThreadLocal<SoftReference<StringEncoder>> encoder =
        new ThreadLocal<>();

We seem to be doing encoding / decoding using at least two different charsets (we also see Encoder / Decoders for those two charsets being allocated / promoted) which is causing this churn (i.e., the coder allocations are not caused by the SoftReferences being cleared; they are frequently replaced when a coder for a different charset is required). Even though we observed this behavior with JDK 8 it should also exist in JDK 9 (StringCoding still has the same two ThreadLocals; we can confirm this very easily).

Has anyone identified this issue before? We believe that caching a small number of coders per thread (instead of just one) could avoid this unnecessary churn. We’ll be happy to contribute such a fix if there’s interest in getting it accepted.

Also, why are SoftReferences used here? In our case, if a thread does some encoding / decoding once it’s likely it will likely keep doing it for ever. So the use of SoftReferences here is not very helpful (it adds unnecessary overhead to the GC, not only due to the extra copying but also due to the extra work required during reference processing). Was there a specific reason for the use of SoftReferences here?

Finally, the StringCoding coder c'tor allocates a new Charset coder (Charset{Encoder,Decoder}) for the specific charset. But such Charset coders already seem to be cached in ThreadLocals in the sun.nio.cs.ThreadLocalCoders class. Any reason why we cannot re-use those? (Oh, and also note that this cache does not use SoftReferences, which makes their use by the StringCoding class even more perplexing.)

(a tip of the hat to my colleague Peter Beaman for discovering this issue)



Tony Printezis | JVM/GC Engineer / VM Team | Twitter

tprintezis at

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