Tom McAdam

new java 8 map methods

The new methods on the Map interface in Java 8 really are lovely. I recently found a need to use them, rather than just read about them.

I was adapting a GroupLock class we have, which locks a set of things (we’ll call them integers for the sake of this post to avoid generics everywhere). It had been a rather simple implementation containing the currently-locked things in a Set<Integer>, but we wanted to improve it to include properties such as re-entrant locking.

So our implementation now has a ConcurrentMap<Integer, ReentrantLock> to control the locking.

adding a lock

Before Java 8 life was hard if we wanted to associate a key with a value in a map in an atomic fashion. To ensure we didn’t add to the map if the key already existed we’d have needed to do something along the lines of:

     map = Maps.newConcurrentMap();
ReentrantLock lock = new ReentrantLock();
map.putIfAbsent(k, lock);

This is quite clunky and, not that we should be overly worried about it, allocates a new object which may well be thrown away frequently if keys are usually already mapped.

In Java 8 we have the lovely method computeIfAbsent which will compute the value and add to the map. So all we need to do is:

map.computeIfAbsent(k, (v) -> new Value())

Much cleaner. This was the obvious bit. But where Java 8 features came into their own was in the clean-up code.


Unlocking a key comes in two parts: firstly, we need to perform the unlock. That’s pretty straightforward:

private void unlock(Integer key) {
  ReentrantLock lock = map.get(key)
  if (lock == null) {
    throw new IllegalStateException();

Secondly, though, we need to tidy up our Map to avoid it becoming a massive memory leak over time. When contemplating this, I started coming out in cold sweats thinking about hideous synchronisation needed on all uses of the Map, and some code like:

synchronized(map) {
  ReentrantLock lock = map.get(id);
  if (lock != null && !lock.isLocked()) {

I then took another look at the documentation in the hope of a Java 8 method to help me out. computeIfPresent did just that. As the name suggests, it will compute the value for a key, if that key is present and, crucially, remove the association if the computed value is null. So, with the help of this new method we’re able to do the much cleaner:

  map.computeIfPresent(id, (key, value) -> value.isLocked() ? value : null );

Do be careful, though. The Map interface doesn’t make any concurrency guarantees about these new methods. You’ll need to check the implementations, such as ConcurrentMap to find out whether they’re atomic.

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