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Hazelcast's MapLoader Pitfalls

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Hazelcast's MapLoader Pitfalls

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One of the core data structures provided by Hazelcast is IMap<K, V> extendingjava.util.concurrent.ConcurrentMap - which is basically a distributed map, often used as cache. You can configure such map to use custom MapLoader<K, V> - piece of Java code that will be asked every time you try to.get() something from that map (by key) which is not yet there. This is especially useful when you use IMap as a distributed in-memory cache - if client code asks for something that wasn't cached yet, Hazelcast will transparently execute your MapLoader.load(key):

public interface MapLoader<K, V> {
V load(K key);
Map<K, V> loadAll(Collection<K> keys);
Set<K> loadAllKeys();
}

The remaining two methods are used during startup to optionally warm-up cache by loading pre-defined set of keys. Your custom MapLoader can reach out to (No)SQL database, web-service, file-system, you name it. Working with such a cache is much more convenient because you don't have to implement tedious "if not in cache load and put in cache" cycle. Moreover, MapLoader has a fantastic feature - if many clients are asking at the same time for the same key (from different threads, or even different cluster members - thus machines), MapLoader is executed only once. This significantly decreases load on external dependencies, without introducing any complexity.

In essence IMap with MapLoader is similar to LoadingCache found in Guava - but distributed. However with great power comes great frustration, especially when you don't understand the peculiarities of API and inherent complexity of a distributed system.

First let's see how to configure custom MapLoader. You can use hazelcast.xml for that (<map-store/> element), but you then have no control over life-cycle of your loader (e.g. you can't use Spring bean). A better idea is to configure Hazelcast directly from code and pass an instance of MapLoader:

class HazelcastTest extends Specification {
public static final int ANY_KEY = 42
public static final String ANY_VALUE = "Forty two"




def 'should use custom loader'() {
given:
MapLoader loaderMock = Mock()
loaderMock.load(ANY_KEY) >> ANY_VALUE
def hz = build(loaderMock)
IMap<Integer, String> emptyCache = hz.getMap("cache")




when:
def value = emptyCache.get(ANY_KEY)




then:
value == ANY_VALUE




cleanup:
hz?.shutdown()
}

Notice how we obtain an empty map, but when asked for ANY_KEY, we get ANY_VALUE in return. This is not a surprise, this is what our loaderMock was expected to do. I left Hazelcast configuration:

def HazelcastInstance build(MapLoader<Integer, String> loader) {
final Config config = new Config("Cluster")
final MapConfig mapConfig = config.getMapConfig("default")
final MapStoreConfig mapStoreConfig = new MapStoreConfig()
mapStoreConfig.factoryImplementation = {name, props -> loader } as MapStoreFactory
mapConfig.mapStoreConfig = mapStoreConfig
return Hazelcast.getOrCreateHazelcastInstance(config)
}

Any IMap (identified by name) can have a different configuration. However special "default" map specifies default configuration for all maps. Let's play a bit with custom loaders and see how they behave when MapLoader returns null or throws an exception:

def 'should return null when custom loader returns it'() {
given:
MapLoader loaderMock = Mock()
def hz = build(loaderMock)
IMap<Integer, String> cache = hz.getMap("cache")




when:
def value = cache.get(ANY_KEY)




then:
value == null
!cache.containsKey(ANY_KEY)




cleanup:
hz?.shutdown()
}




public static final String SOME_ERR_MSG = "Don't panic!"




def 'should propagate exceptions from loader'() {
given:
MapLoader loaderMock = Mock()
loaderMock.load(ANY_KEY) >> {throw new UnsupportedOperationException(SOME_ERR_MSG)}
def hz = build(loaderMock)
IMap<Integer, String> cache = hz.getMap("cache")




when:
cache.get(ANY_KEY)




then:
UnsupportedOperationException e = thrown()
e.message.contains(SOME_ERR_MSG)




cleanup:
hz?.shutdown()
}

MapLoader is executed in a separate thread

So far nothing surprising. The first trap you might encounter is how threads interact here. MapLoader is never executed from client thread, always from a separate thread pool: 

def 'loader works in a different thread'() {
given:
MapLoader loader = Mock()
loader.load(ANY_KEY) >> {key -> "$key: ${Thread.currentThread().name}"}
def hz = build(loader)
IMap<Integer, String> cache = hz.getMap("cache")




when:
def value = cache.get(ANY_KEY)




then:
value != "$ANY_KEY: ${Thread.currentThread().name}"




cleanup:
hz?.shutdown()
}

This test passes because current thread is "main" while loading occurs from within something like"hz.Cluster.partition-operation.thread-10". This is an important observation and is actually quite obvious if you remember that when many threads try to access the same absent key, loader is called only once. But more needs to be explained here. Almost every operation on IMap is encapsulated into one of operation objects (see also: Command pattern). This operation is later dispatched to one or all cluster members and executed remotely in a separate thread pool, or even on a different machine. Thus, don't expect loading to occur in the same thread, or even same JVM/server (!) 

This leads to an interesting situation where you request given key on one machine, but actual loading happens on the other. Or even more epic - machines A, B and C request given key whereas machine D physically loads value for that key. The decision which machine is responsible for loading is made based on consistent hashing algorithm.

One final remark - of course you can customize the size of thread pools running these operations, see Advanced Configuration Properties.

IMap.remove() calls MapLoader

This one is totally surprising and definitely to be expected once you think about it:

def 'IMap.remove() on non-existing key still calls loader (!)'() {
given:
MapLoader loaderMock = Mock()
def hz = build(loaderMock)
IMap<Integer, String> emptyCache = hz.getMap("cache")




when:
emptyCache.remove(ANY_KEY)




then:
1 * loaderMock.load(ANY_KEY)




cleanup:
hz?.shutdown()
}

Look carefully! All we do is removing absent key from a map. Nothing else. Yet, loaderMock.load() was executed. This is a problem especially when your custom loader is particularly slow or expensive. Why was it executed here? Look up the API of `java.util.Map#remove():

V remove(Object key)

[...]

Returns the value to which this map previously associated the key, or null if the map contained no mapping for the key.

Maybe it's controversial but one might argue that Hazelcast is doing the right thing. If you consider our map withMapLoader attached as sort of like a view to external storage, it makes sense. When removing absent key, Hazelcast actually asks our MapLoader: what could have been a previous value? It pretends as if the map contained every single value returned from MapLoader, but loaded lazily. This is not a bug since there is a special method IMap.delete() that works just like remove(), but doesn't load "previous" value:

@Issue("https://github.com/hazelcast/hazelcast/issues/3178")
def "IMap.delete() doesn't call loader"() {
given:
MapLoader loaderMock = Mock()
def hz = build(loaderMock)
IMap<Integer, String> cache = hz.getMap("cache")




when:
cache.delete(ANY_KEY)




then:
0 * loaderMock.load(ANY_KEY)




cleanup:
hz?.shutdown()
}
Actually, there was a bug:  IMap.delete() should not call MapLoader.load(), fixed in 3.2.6 and 3.3. If you haven't upgraded yet, even  IMap.delete() will go to  MapLoader. If you think  IMap.remove() is surprising, check out how put() works!

IMap.put() calls MapLoader

If you thought  remove() loading value first is suspicious, what about explicit  put() loading a value for a given key first? After all, we are  explicitly putting something into a map by key, why Hazelcast loads this value first via  MapLoader?

def 'IMap.put() on non-existing key still calls loader (!)'() {
given:
MapLoader loaderMock = Mock()
def hz = build(loaderMock)
IMap<Integer, String> emptyCache = hz.getMap("cache")




when:
emptyCache.put(ANY_KEY, ANY_VALUE)




then:
1 * loaderMock.load(ANY_KEY)




cleanup:
hz?.shutdown()
}
Again, let's restore to  java.util.Map.put() JavaDoc:

V put(K key, V value)

[...]

Returns:

the previous value associated with key, or null if there was no mapping for key.

Hazelcast pretends that IMap is just a lazy view over some external source, so when we put() something into an IMapthat wasn't there before, it first loads the "previous" value so that it can return it. Again this is a big issue when MapLoaderis slow or expensive - if we can explicitly put something into the map, why load it first? Luckily there is a straightforward workaround, putTransient():

def "IMap.putTransient() doesn't call loader"() {
given:
MapLoader loaderMock = Mock()
def hz = build(loaderMock)
IMap<Integer, String> cache = hz.getMap("cache")




when:
cache.putTransient(ANY_KEY, ANY_VALUE, 1, TimeUnit.HOURS)




then:
0 * loaderMock.load(ANY_KEY)




cleanup:
hz?.shutdown()
}
One caveat is that you have to provide TTL explicitly, rather then relying on configured  IMap defaults. But this also means you can assign arbitrary TTL to every map entry, not only globally to whole map - useful.

IMap.containsKey() involves MapLoader, can be slow or block

Remember our analogy:  IMap with backing  MapLoader behaves like a view over external source of data. That's why it shouldn't be a surprise that  containsKey() on an empty map will call  MapLoader:

def "IMap.containsKey() calls loader"() {
given:
MapLoader loaderMock = Mock()
def hz = build(loaderMock)
IMap<Integer, String> emptyMap = hz.getMap("cache")




when:
emptyMap.containsKey(ANY_KEY)




then:
1 * loaderMock.load(ANY_KEY)




cleanup:
hz?.shutdown()
}
Every time we ask for a key that's not present in a map, Hazelcast will ask  MapLoader. Again, this is not an issue as long as your loader is fast, side-effect free and reliable. If this is not the case, this will kill you:

def "IMap.get() after IMap.containsKey() calls loader twice"() {
given:
MapLoader loaderMock = Mock()
def hz = build(loaderMock)
IMap<Integer, String> cache = hz.getMap("cache")




when:
cache.containsKey(ANY_KEY)
cache.get(ANY_KEY)




then:
2 * loaderMock.load(ANY_KEY)




cleanup:
hz?.shutdown()
}
Despite  containsKey() calling  MapLoader, it doesn't "cache" loaded value to use it later. That's why  containsKey()followed by  get() calls  MapLoader two times, quite wasteful. Luckily if you call  containsKey() on existing key, it runs almost immediately, although most likely will require network hop. What is not so fortunate is the behaviour of  keySet(), values()entrySet() and few other methods before version 3.3 of Hazelcast. These would all block in case  any key is being loaded at a time. So if you have a map with thousands of keys and you ask for  keySet(), one slow MapLoader.load() invocation will block whole cluster. This was fortunately fixed in 3.3, so that  IMap.keySet(), IMap.values(), etc. do not block, even when some keys are being computed at the moment.


As you can see  IMap +  MapLoader combo is powerful, but also filled with traps. Some of them are dictated by the API, osme by distributed nature of Hazelcast, finally some are implementation specific. Be sure you understand them before implementing loading cache feature. 

Simply build, test, and deploy. Mesosphere DC/OS is the best way to run containers and big data anywhere offering production-proven flexibility and reliability.

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Published at DZone with permission of Tomasz Nurkiewicz, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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