Advances in Computers, Vol. 29 by Marshall C. Yovits

By Marshall C. Yovits

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To allow many actors in a JVM, you can make your actors event-based. Event-based actors are implemented as event handlers instead of as threads, and are therefore more light-weight than their thread-based cousins. Since event-based actors are not tied to Java threads, event-based actors can execute on a pool of a small number of worker threads. Typically, such a pool should contain as many worker threads as there are processor cores in the system. That maximizes parallelism while keeping the overhead of pool threads– memory consumption and context-switching–to a minimum.

Let’s find out just how lightweight they actually are by creating chains of actors of ever increasing size until the JVM runs out of memory. Moreover, we can compare that chain with thread-based actors by replacing the two r❡❛❝ts with r❡❝❡✐✈❡s. But first, how many event-based actors can we create? And, how much time does it take to create them? On a test system, a chain of one thousand actors is built and terminated in about 115 ms, while creating and destroying a chain of ten thousand actors takes about 540 ms.

A chain of two thousand threaded actors takes already over 97 seconds. With a chain of three thousand actors, the test JVM crashes with an ❥❛✈❛✳❧❛♥❣✳❖✉t❖❢▼❡♠♦r②❊rr♦r. As this simple test demonstrates, event-based actors are much more lightweight than thread-based actors. The following sections explore how to program with event-based actors effectively. Using r❡❛❝t effectively As we mentioned above, with r❡❛❝t an actor waits for a message in an event-based manner: Under the hood, instead of blocking the underlying worker thread, r❡❛❝t’s block of pattern-action pairs is registered as an eventhandler.

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