Understanding and Overcoming Parallelism Bottlenecks in ForkJoin Applications

Published in Automated Software Engineering (ASE), 2017

ForkJoin framework is a widely used parallel programming framework upon which both core concurrency libraries and real-world applications are built. Beneath its simple and user-friendly APIs, ForkJoin is a sophisticated managed parallel runtime unfamiliar to many application programmers: the framework core is a work-stealing scheduler, handles fine-grained tasks, and sustains the pressure from automatic memory management. ForkJoin poses a unique gap in the compute stack between high-level software engineering and low-level system optimization. Understanding and bridging this gap is crucial for the future of parallelism support in JVM-supported applications. This paper describes a comprehensive study on parallelism bottlenecks in ForkJoin applications, with a unique focus on how they interact with underlying system-level features, such as work stealing and memory management. We identify 6 bottlenecks, and found that refactoring them can significantly improve performance and energy efficiency. Our field study includes an in-depth analysis of Akka — a real-world actor framework — and 30 additional open-source ForkJoin projects. We sent our patches to the developers of 15 projects, and 7 out of the 9 projects that replied to our patches have accepted them.

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