Thursday, September 22, 2011

consistency and liveness hazards - largely theoretical

The primary tension/conflict in multi-threading -- the twin challenges of consistency vs liveness, are seldom seen as practical challenges. This challenge is supposed to the only show in town but has an empty audience. After years of practice, I now see a few reasons

Reason: Developers stick to simple or (a tiny number of) well-tested concurrency constructs. For example, swing developers use lots of threads often without knowing. Threads are indispensable to servlet and JDBC. Even more important roles are given to threads in the MOM arena. No threading knowledge required though.

Reason: Creating a new concurrency construct is considered tricky, unproven, hard to sell, unjustified, low ROI, so few developers try.

Reason: When we do try, we seldom confront the twin challenge. We focus on getting the pieces to work together.

Reason: When concurrency bugs do exist, they stay dormant practically "forever". I have never seen a test on Wall St that actually revealed a concurrency bug. Concurrency Bugs are discovered by code review.

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