Sharing numeric values across threads using Java 8 LongAdder

In this post we saw how to share primitive values across threads using the various atomic objects in the java.util.concurrent.atomic package. The example code demonstrated the AtomicInteger object which is the thread-safe variant of a “normal” integer. Mathematical operations like adding a value to an integer are carried out atomically for that object. This means that the low-level instructions involved in adding two integers are carried out as one unit without the risk of another interfering thread. The same package includes atomic versions of other primitive values such as AtomicBoolean or AtomicLong.

In this post we’ll take a quick look at an addition in Java 8 relevant to sharing integers, longs and doubles.

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Sharing primitives across threads in Java using atomic objects

Threading and parallel execution are popular choices when making applications more responsive and resource-efficient. Various tasks are carried out on separate threads where they either produce some result relevant to the main thread or just run in the background “unnoticed”. Often these tasks work autonomously meaning they have their own set of dependencies and variables. That is they do not interfere with a resource that is common to 2 or more threads.

However, that’s not always the case. Imagine that multiple threads are trying to update the same primitive like an integer counter. They perform some action and then update this counter. In this post we’ll see what can go wrong.

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Getting the result of the first completed parallel task in Java

In this post we saw how to delegate one or more parallel tasks to different threads and wait for all of them to complete. We pretended that 4 different computations took 1,2,3 and respectively 4 seconds to complete. If we execute each calculation one after the other on the same thread then it takes 10 seconds to complete them all. We can do a lot better by assigning each operation to a separate thread and let them run in parallel. The Future and Callable of T objects along with a thread pool make this very easy to implement.

There are situations where we only need the result from 1 parallel operation. Imagine that it’s enough to complete 1 of the four computations in the example code so that our main thread can continue. We don’t know how long each operation will take so we let them have a race. The one that is executed first returns its value and the rest are interrupted and forgotten. We’ll see how to achieve that in this post.

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Getting a result from a parallel task in Java

In this post we saw how to execute a task on a different thread in Java. The examples demonstrated how to start a thread in the background without the main thread waiting for a result. This strategy is called fire-and-forget and is ideal in cases where the task has no return value.

However, that’s not always the case. What if we want to wait for the task to finish and return a result? Welcome to the future… or to the Future with a capital F.

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