Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Rishi Bhargava, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Kevin Jackson, Harry Trott

Related Topics: Java IoT, IoT User Interface

Java IoT: Article

The Cost of an Exception

A closer look at the costs of throwing exceptions

Recently there was a bigger discussion at dynaTrace around the cost of exceptions. When working with customers we very often find a lot of exceptions they are not aware of. After removing these exceptions, the code runs significantly faster than before. This creates the assumption that using exceptions in your code comes with a significant performance overhead. The implication would be that you better avoid using exceptions. As exceptions are an important construct for handling error situation, avoiding exceptions completely does not seem to be good solution. All in all this was reason enough to have a closer look at the costs of throwing exceptions.

The Experiment
I based my experiment on a simple piece of code that randomly throws an exception. This is not a really scientifically-profound measurement and we also don’t know what the HotSpot compiler does with the code as it runs. Nevertheless it should provide us with some basic insights.

public class ExceptionTest {

public long maxLevel = 20;

public static void main (String ... args){

ExceptionTest test = new ExceptionTest();

long start = System.currentTimeMillis();
int count = 10000;
for (int i= 0; i < count; i++){
try {
test.doTest(2, 0);
}catch (Exception ex){
//        ex.getStackTrace();
}
}
long diff = System.currentTimeMillis() - start;
System.out.println(String.format("Average time for invocation: %1$.5f",((double) diff)/count));
}

public void doTest (int i, int level){
if (level < maxLevel){
try {
doTest (i, ++level);
}
catch (Exception ex){
//        ex.getStackTrace();
throw new RuntimeException ("UUUPS", ex);
}
}
else {
if (i > 1) {
throw new RuntimeException("Ups".substring(0, 3));
}
}
}
}

The Result
The result was very interesting. The cost of throwing and catching an exception seems to be rather low. In my sample it was about 0.002ms per Exception. This can more or less be neglected unless you really throw too many exceptions – and too many means we are talking about 100.000 or more.

While these results show that exception handling itself is not affecting code performance, it leaves open the question: what is responsible for the huge performance impact of exceptions? So obviously I was missing something – something important.

After thinking about it again, I realized that I was missing an important part of exception handling. I missed out the part on what you do when exceptions occur. In most cases you – hopefully – do not just catch the exception and that’s it. Normally you try to compensate for the problem and keep the application functioning for your end users. So the point I was missing was the compensation code that is executed for handling an exception. Depending on what this code is doing the performance penalty can become quite significant. In some cases this might mean retrying to connect to a server in other cases it might mean using a default fallback solution that is providing a far less-performing solution.

While this seemed to be a good explanation for the behavior we saw in many scenarios, I thought I am not done yet with the analysis. I had the feeling that there is something else that I was missing here.

Stack Traces
Still curious about this problem I looked into how the situation changes when I collect stack traces. This is what very often happens. You log an exception and its stack trace to try to figure out what the problem is.

I therefore modified my code to now get the stack trace of an exception as well. This changed the situation dramatically. Getting the stack trace of an exception had a 10x higher impact on the performance than just catching and throwing them. So while stack traces help to understand where and possibly also why a problem occurred, they come with a performance penalty.

The impact here is often very high as we are not talking about a single stack trace. In most cases exceptions are thrown – and caught – at multiple levels. Let us look at a simple example of a Web Service client connecting to a server. First there is an exception at the Java library level for the failed connection. Then there is a framework exception for the failed client and then there might be an application-level exception that some business logic invocation failed. This now sums up to three stack traces being collected.

In most cases you should see them in your log files or application output. Writing these potentially long stack traces again comes with some performance impact. At least you normally see and you can react to them if you look at your log files regularly – which is something you do, don’t you? ;-)

In some cases I have seen even worse behavior due to some incorrect logging code. Instead of checking whether a certain log level is enabled by calling log.isxxEnabled () first, developers just call logging methods. When this happens, logging code is always executed including getting stack traces of exceptions. As the log level however is set too low they never show up anywhere you might not even be aware of them. Checking for log levels first should be a general rule as it also avoids unnecessary object creation.

Conclusion
Not using exceptions because of their potential performance impact is a bad idea. Exceptions help to provide a uniform way to cope with runtime problems and they help to write clean code. You however need to trace the number of exceptions that are thrown in your code. Although they might be caught they can still have a significant performance impact. In dynaTrace we, by default, track thrown exceptions – and in many cases people are surprised by what is going on in their code and what the performance impact is in resolving them.

While exception usage is good you should avoid capturing too many stack traces. In many cases they are not even necessary to understand the problem – especially if they cover a problem you already expect. The exception message therefore might prove as being enough information. I get enough out of a Connection refused message so I do not need the full stack trace into the internal of the java.net call stack.

Related reading:

  1. Application Performance Monitoring in production – A Step-by-Step Guide – Part 1 // Setting up Application Performance Monitoring is a big task,...
  2. The impact of Garbage Collection on Java performance // In my last post I explained what a major...
  3. Top 10 Performance Problems taken from Zappos, Monster, Thomson and Co For a recent edition of the Swiss Computerworld Magazine we...
  4. Top 10 Client-Side Performance Problems in Web 2.0 Inspired by the Top 10 Performance Problems post which focuses...
  5. Real Life Ajax Troubleshooting Guide One of our clients occasionally runs into the following problem...

 

More Stories By Alois Reitbauer

Alois Reitbauer is Chief Technical Strategist at Dynatrace. He has spent most of his career building monitoring tools and fine-tuning application performance. A regular conference speaker, blogger, author, and sushi maniac, Alois currently shares his professional time between Linz, Boston, and San Francisco.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Businesses and business units of all sizes can benefit from cloud computing, but many don't want the cost, performance and security concerns of public cloud nor the complexity of building their own private clouds. Today, some cloud vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify cloud deployment and management. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ajay Gulati, Co-founder and CEO of ZeroStack, will discuss how AI can simplify cloud operations. He will cover the following topics: why clou...
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and sh...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
We are always online. We access our data, our finances, work, and various services on the Internet. But we live in a congested world of information in which the roads were built two decades ago. The quest for better, faster Internet routing has been around for a decade, but nobody solved this problem. We’ve seen band-aid approaches like CDNs that attack a niche's slice of static content part of the Internet, but that’s it. It does not address the dynamic services-based Internet of today. It does...
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web ...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.