Grokbase Groups Lucene dev July 2008
As always, you still have the issue that if the object in the
ThreadLocal has a reference to a native resource (e.g. file handle),
you might run out of file handles before any OOM which triggers the
GC (to close the file handle if relying on finalization).
On Jul 11, 2008, at 4:54 AM, Michael McCandless wrote:

OK, I created a simple test to test this (attached). The test just
runs 10 threads, each one creating a 100 KB byte array which is
stored into a ThreadLocal, and then periodically the ThreadLocal is
replaced with a new one. This is to test whether GC of a
ThreadLocal, even though the thread is still alive, in fact leads
to GC of the objects held in the ThreadLocal.

Indeed on Sun JRE 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6 it appears that the objects are
in fact properly collected.

So this is not a leak but rather a "delayed collection" issue.
Java's GC is never guaranteed to be immediate, and apparently when
using ThreadLocals it's even less immediate than "normal". In the
original issue, if other things create ThreadLocals, then
eventually Lucene's unreferenced ThreadLocals would be properly

So I think we continue to use non-static ThreadLocals in Lucene...



robert engels wrote:
Once again, these are "static" thread locals. A completely
different issue. Since the object is available statically, the
weak reference cannot be cleared so stale entries will never be
cleared as long as the thread is alive.
On Jul 9, 2008, at 4:46 PM, Adrian Tarau wrote:

Just a few examples of "problems" using ThreadLocals.

Once again, I'm not pointing to Lucene SegmentReader as a "bad"
implementation, and maybe the current "problems" of ThreadLocals
are not a problem for SegmentReader but it seems safer to use
ThreadLocals to pass context information which is cleared when
the call exits instead of storing long-lived objects.

robert engels wrote:
Aside from the pre-1.5 thread local "perceived leak", there are
no issues with ThreadLocals if used properly.

There is no need for try/finally blocks, unless you MUST release
resources immediately, usually this is not the case, which is
why a ThreadLocal is used in the first place.

From the ThreadLocalMap javadoc...

* ThreadLocalMap is a customized hash map suitable only for
* maintaining thread local values. No operations are exported
* outside of the ThreadLocal class. The class is package
private to
* allow declaration of fields in class Thread. To help
deal with
* very large and long-lived usages, the hash table entries use
* WeakReferences for keys. However, since reference queues
are not
* used, stale entries are guaranteed to be removed only when
* the table starts running out of space.

* Heuristically scan some cells looking for stale entries.
* This is invoked when either a new element is added, or
* another stale one has been expunged. It performs a
* logarithmic number of scans, as a balance between no
* scanning (fast but retains garbage) and a number of
* proportional to number of elements, that would find all
* garbage but would cause some insertions to take O(n)
* @param i a position known NOT to hold a stale entry. The
* scan starts at the element after i.
* @param n scan control: <tt>log2(n)</tt> cells are
* unless a stale entry one is found, in which case
* <tt>log2(table.length)-1</tt> additional cells are
* When called from insertions, this parameter is the
* of elements, but when from replaceStaleEntry, it is the
* table length. (Note: all this could be changed to be
* more or less aggressive by weighting n instead of just
* using straight log n. But this version is simple,
fast, and
* seems to work well.)
* @return true if any stale entries have been removed.

The instance ThreadLocals (and what the refer to) will be GC'd
when the containing Object is GC'd.

There IS NO MEMORY LEAK in ThreadLocal. If the ThreadLocal
refers to an object that has native resources (e.g. file
handles), it may not be released until other thread locals are
created by the thread (or the thread terminates).

You can avoid this "delay" by calling remove(), but in most
applications it should never be necessary - unless a very
strange usage...
On Jul 9, 2008, at 2:37 PM, Adrian Tarau wrote:

From what I know, storing objects in ThreadLocal is safe as
long as you release the object within a try {} finall {} block
or store objects which are independent of the rest of the code
(no dependencies).Otherwise it can get pretty tricky(memory
leaks, classloader problems) after awhile.

It is pretty convenient to pass HTTP request information with a
ThreadLocal in a servlet(but you should cleanup the variable
before leaving the servlet) but I'm not sure how safe it is in
this case.

robert engels wrote:
Using synchronization is a poor/invalid substitute for thread
locals in many cases.

The point of the thread local in these referenced cases is too
allow streaming reads on a file descriptor. if you use a
shared file descriptor/buffer you are going to continually
invalidate the buffer.
On Jul 8, 2008, at 5:12 AM, Michael McCandless wrote:

Well ... SegmentReader uses ThreadLocal to hold a thread-
private instance of TermVectorsReader, to avoid synchronizing
per-document when loading term vectors.

Clearing this ThreadLocal value per call to SegmentReader's
methods that load term vectors would defeat its purpose.

Though, of course, we then synchronize on the underlying file
(when using FSDirectory), so perhaps we are really not saving
much by using ThreadLocal here. But we are looking to relax
that low level synchronization with LUCENE-753.

Maybe we could make our own ThreadLocal that just uses a
HashMap, which we'd have to synchronize on when getting the
per-thread instances. Or, go back to sharing a single
TermVectorsReader and synchronize per-document.

Jason has suggested moving to a model where you ask the
IndexReader for an object that can return term vectors /
stored fields / etc, and then you interact with that many
times to retrieve each doc. We could then synchronize only
on retrieving that object, and provide a thread-private

It seems like we should move away from using ThreadLocal in
Lucene and do "normal" synchronization instead.


Adrian Tarau wrote:
Usually ThreadLocal.remove() should be called at the end(in
a finally block), before the current call leaves your code.

Ex : if during searching ThreadLocal is used, every search
(..) method should cleanup any ThreadLocal variables, or
even deeper in the implementation. When the call leaves
Lucene any used ThreadLocal should be cleaned up.

Michael McCandless wrote:
ThreadLocal, which we use in several places in Lucene,
causes a leak in app servers because the classloader never
fully deallocates Lucene's classes because the ThreadLocal
is holding strong references.

Yet, ThreadLocal is very convenient for avoiding

Does anyone have any ideas on how to solve this w/o falling
back to "normal" synchronization?


Begin forwarded message:
From: "Yonik Seeley" <>
Date: July 7, 2008 3:30:28 PM EDT
Subject: Re: ThreadLocal in SegmentReader

On Mon, Jul 7, 2008 at 2:43 PM, Michael McCandless
So now I'm confused: the SegmentReader itself should no
longer be reachable,
assuming you are not holding any references to your

Which means the ThreadLocal instance should no longer be
It will still be referenced from the Thread(s) ThreadLocalMap
The key (the ThreadLocal) will be weakly referenced, but
the values
(now stale) are strongly referenced and won't be actually
until the table is resized (under the Java6 impl at least).
Nice huh?


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