Friday, October 19, 2012

JAVA Synchronized HashMap vs ConcurrentHashMap

A synchronized HashMap is a Map returned by calling  synchronizedMap methods of java.util.Collections class.

Map syncMap = Collections.synchronizedMap(new HashMap()) ;

The characteristics of synchronized collections are:

1. Each method is synchronized using an object level lock. So the get and put methods on syncMap acquire a lock on syncMap.

2. Compound operations such as check -then - update or iterating over the collection require the client to explicitly acquire a lock on the collection object.

synchronized(syncMap) {
     Integer val = syncMap.get(key) ;
     if ( val == null) {
          syncMap.put(key,  newvalue) ;


Without synchronization, multiple threads calling the code can lead to inconsistent values.

3. Locking the entire collection is a performance overhead. While one thread holds on to the lock, no other thread can use the collection.

4. HashMap and other collections from java.util.collections throw ConcurrentModificationException if a thread tries to modify a collection while another thread is iterating over it. The recommended approach is to acquire a lock before iterating over the map.

ConcurrentHashMap was introduced in JDK 5.

The characteristics of ConcurrentHashMap are:

1. There is no locking at the object level. The locking is at a much finer granularity. For a concurrentHashMap , the locks may be at a hashmap bucket level.

2. The effect of lower level locking is that you can have concurrent readers and writers which is not possible for synchronized collections. This leads to much more scalability.

3. Since there no locking at the object level,  additional atomic methods are provided for some compound operations. The ConcurrentHashMap has methods putIfAbsent, remove, replace all of which require checking a key or value and then performing a put or remove.

The code above can be replaced by

ConcurrentHashMap concMap ;
 concMap.putIfAbsent(key,newvalue) ;

4. ConcurrentHashMap does not throw a ConcurrentModificationException if one thread tries to modify it while another is iterating over it. The iterator returned by ConcurrentHashMap is an iterator on a snapshot of the data when the iterator was created. It may or may not have changes made by other threads after the iterator was created.

In general, using ConcurrentHashMap instead of synchronized Map gives you much better scalability and you do not have to explicitly synchronize on the map object.