Java UUID Generation: Performance Impact

Java developers tend to use the ‘java.util.UUID#randomUUID()’ API to generate a UUID (Universally Unique Identifier) ​​number (ie, ‘b8bbbbed-ca07-490c-8711-5118ee0af2f9’). Under certain circumstances, using this API can affect your application’s availability. Let’s discuss this API in this post with a real-world example.

How Does the ‘java.util.UUID#randomUUID()’ API Work?

java.util.UUID#randomUUID() API internally uses ‘entropy’ in the operating system to generate a unique number. What does ‘entropy’ mean? The Linux kernel uses certain techniques like a user’s mouse movements, variance in the hardware fan noise, variance in the noise of the device drivers, etc. to generate random numbers. When there is a lack of ‘entropy’ in the operating system, then random number generation will slow down. When there is a slowdown, application threads that are calling this ‘java.util.UUID#randomUUID()’ API call will be put in a BLOCKED state, and they wouldn’t be able to progress further.

If your application uses ‘java.util.UUID#randomUUID()’ API in a critical code path and there is a lack of entropy in the operating system, then multiple threads can enter into this BLOCKED state, bringing your entire application to a grinding halt.

Real World Application – 50 Threads BLOCKED in java.util.UUID#randomUUID() API

Here is a real-world thread dump report of an application that was suffering from this problem. If you haven’t clicked on the hyperlink in the previous sentence, we request you do so. It would give a better context of the problem. (Note: in the thread dump report, we have changed the package name to ‘buggycompany’ to hide the identity of the application).

In the thread dump report, you can see that there are 102 threads in total. In these 102 threads, 50 threads are in the BLOCKED state due to the ‘java.util.UUID#randomUUID()’ API call. Below is the stack trace of one of those 50 threads:

"[ACTIVE] ExecuteThread: '1' for queue: 'weblogic.kernel.Default (self-tuning)'" waiting for lock 
java.security.SecureRandom@20a56b2b BLOCKED 

java.security.SecureRandom.nextBytes(SecureRandom.java:433) 
java.util.UUID.randomUUID(UUID.java:159) 
com.buggycompany.jtm.bp.<init>(bp.java:185) 
com.buggycompany.jtm.a4.f(a4.java:94) 
com.buggycompany.agent.trace.RootTracer.topComponentMethodBbuggycompanyin(RootTracer.java:439) 
weblogicx.servlet.gzip.filter.GZIPFilter.doFilter(GZIPFilter.java) 
weblogic.servlet.internal.FilterChainImpl.doFilter(FilterChainImpl.java:56) 
weblogic.servlet.internal.WebAppServletContext$ServletInvocationAction.wrapRun(WebAppServletContext.java:3730) 
weblogic.servlet.internal.WebAppServletContext$ServletInvocationAction.run(WebAppServletContext.java:3696) 
weblogic.security.acl.internal.AuthenticatedSubject.doAs(AuthenticatedSubject.java:321) 
weblogic.security.service.SecurityManager.runAs(SecurityManager.java:120) 
weblogic.servlet.internal.WebAppServletContext.securedExecute(WebAppServletContext.java:2273) 
weblogic.servlet.internal.WebAppServletContext.execute(WebAppServletContext.java:2179) 
weblogic.servlet.internal.ServletRequestImpl.run(ServletRequestImpl.java:1490) 
weblogic.work.ExecuteThread.execute(ExecuteThread.java:256) 
weblogic.work.ExecuteThread.run(ExecuteThread.java:221)

Fig: Stack trace of a stuck thread while making ‘java.util.UUID#randomUUID()’ API call

You can see that the thread got into a BLOCKED state when invoking ‘java.util.UUID#randomUUID()’ due to a lack of ‘entropy’ and is unable to progress. Due to that, 50 threads got stuck. Thus, it was making the application unresponsive.

Checking Entropy Status in Linux

To check the availability of entropy in Linux, execute the below command:

cat /proc/sys/kernel/random/entropy_avail

If you see the value to be less than 1000, then it indicates there is a lack of entropy. It may lead to BLOCKED threads in the applications.

Potential Solutions

If this problem surfaces in your application, the following are the potential solutions to address them:

1. RHEL

This problem has been resolved in RHEL 7 and above. If you can upgrade to RHEL 7 or above version, please do so.

If you are running on an older version of RHEL, you can follow the recommendations given here to fix this problem.

2. Install Hved in Linux

If your application is running in Linux, then you can consider installing the ‘haveged’ library. The ‘haveged project’ is meant to provide an easy-to-use, unpredictable random number generator based upon an adaptation of the HAVEGE algorithm. Here is the ‘Haveged’ project GIT repository page. Here is how you can install it:

On Debian based platforms (Debian, Ubuntu):

sudo apt-get install rng-tools 
sudo update-rc.d haveged defaults

On Redhat platforms (RHEL, Fedora, CentOS):

sudo yum install rng-tools 
sudo chkconfig haveged on

3. Use /dev/urandom Instead of /dev/random

Unix-like operating systems come up with a special file ‘/dev/random’ that serve as pseudorandom number generators. Java uses this file to generate random numbers. You can configure it to use ‘/dev/urandom’ instead of ‘/dev/random’.

‘/dev/urandom’ is another special file that is capable of generating random numbers. However, it has the downside of reduced security due to less randomness. You can achieve it by passing the following JVM argument to your application during startup:

-Djava.security.egd=file:/dev/./urandom

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