final vs. volatile instance fields

Peter Levart peter.levart at
Wed Dec 26 05:29:41 PST 2012

On 12/26/2012 01:31 PM, Aleksey Shipilev wrote:
> Hi Peter,
> You should really consider reading JSR 133 Cookbook:
Sergey, Aleksey, thank you very much for the pointer to the Coockbook. 
This is a valuable resource.

All the best,


> I think you will need to move this discussion on concurrency-interest@ 
> if you want the discussion on broader cross-hardware 
> cross-implementation scope.
> On 26.12.2012, at 15:58, Peter Levart <peter.levart at 
> <mailto:peter.levart at>> wrote:
>> Are there any performance differences in reading and writing of 
>> volatile vs. final instance fields? I can see that reflection is 
>> doing the same for both types (via UnsafeQualifiedFieldAccessorImpl 
>> subtypes) and is reading/writing the fields using 
>> Unsafe.getXxxVolatile/putXxxVolatile. So what does the JIT compiled 
>> code do?
> The short answer is that volatile read generally entails more than 
> just a read, it should also conform to JMM, and as such entail 
> barriers, which might exhibit performance costs due to breaking the 
> pipelining, register allocation, ant other fruitful optimizations. 
> While the barriers might be no-oped on some hardware (x86 included), 
> the compiler effects are still in place.
> Writing final fields is troublesome to reason, and I fully expect JVMs 
> to bailout to volatile-like semantics to preserve (weaker) final 
> fields invariants.
>> a) Are there any differences between writing to those two types of 
>> fields? The Java spec. mandates writing to final fields exactly once 
>> in the constructors and Java Memory Model says that they are "frozen" 
>> at the end of constructor. What does "freeze" actually translate to 
>> in the compiled code?
> Final fields entail the barrier at the end of constructor, and then 
> piggyback heavily on data-dependency (absence) of reordering. Cookbook 
> explains this well enough. And writing volatile fields can incur 
> prohibitive costs due to JMM effects needing to be enforced.
>> b) I can understand that the JIT compiler can generate code that 
>> caches the value of final field say in a register, but initially the 
>> code has to load the value from a final field and the question is 
>> whether this initial load is any different from a volatile read?
> Uhm... Depends on "difference". Yes, reading the final field requires 
> reading the object reference first, and so we can piggyback for almost 
> all of the commodity hardware to not to reorder dependent reads. On 
> hypothetical hardware (Alpha, die already!) you have no such guarantee 
> and reading the final fields will incur barriers similar to volatile 
> read.
> -Aleksey.

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